Feb 11, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) reacts during the third quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at the United Center. The Spurs won 103-89. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

NBA All-Star 2013: Is It Really Worth It For Joakim Noah and Luol Deng to Play?

With the all-star break coming up, and with news breaking over the weekend that Joakim Noah might decide to skip All-Star Weekend, Pippen Ain’t Easy’s own Seerat Sohi and I tried to hash out whether it would be worth it for Noah or the Chicago Bulls’ other all-star, Luol Deng, to make the trip down to Houston.

Caleb Nordgren: OK, so here’s the problem. Noah’s clearly not healthy. Everyone admits this, including Noah himself. But he’s crazy and he wants to play, so (Tom Thibodeau) plays him, at least in part because he knows that (Carlos) Boozer and Taj (Gibson) are the only other two viable big men on the roster. And because Boozer’s not very good and Thibs doesn’t like going small, Noah ends up playing 40 minutes even though he’s hurt. The only way to get around it would be to just have Noah sit until he’s 100 percent. But Noah won’t do it — except apparently for the all-star game — and Thibs isn’t going to turn down a productive player who wants to play. And although John Paxson intervened when he felt Noah was playing too much the last time Noah dealt with plantar fasciitis, that was a different coach, and Thibs would kick his ass. So…I don’t know what to do with this.

Seerat Sohi: Here’s the thing that I don’t understand. Why is Noah so vehemently opposed to sitting? Sure, the Bulls are under a bit of a tough spell right now, but it’s nothing they can’t work themselves out of. The team seems to go into panic mode every time they lose a couple of games, and that’s really just not okay. What’s more important? Having him 100% come playoff time or winning a few games?

I also think this behaviour has to partially stem from the culture the staff has implemented. “Fred cleared him” is only funny until your best player goes down with a torn ACL… oh, wait. In all seriousness, the fact that Luol Deng miraculously didn’t need surgery after the London Olympics but still shooting at a below average clip needs to get more attention. The fact that Thibs’ had Noah playing in the Nuggets game when he was clearly hurting needs to get more attention. Unfortunately, i don’t think John Paxson going Sprewell on him is going to fix anything. The players need to take a page from the ol’ Dwight Howard book of things he’s said to reporters this year and take care of their own health without the discretion of their teams.
Considering that it’s the second time he’s dealing with plantar fasciitis, I don’t think Noah’s the one doing any pressuring.

CN: What’s funny about the Deng thing is that he never had surgery, so that ligament is still torn. It didn’t just go away. And yet, even amongst Bulls fans, nobody talks about it.

SS: Exactly. I mean, it’s one thing if the organization shoves the Deng stuff into a corner, but to see fans doing the same thing is flabbergasting. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember the last time Lu really had a great shooting performance.

CN: I really don’t know what Noah’s deal is. He wants to play, but he admits that he’s not 100 percent and some time off would do him good. This does not compute.
Thibs’ thing is, as far as I can tell, that if his player tells him he’s good and the training staff doesn’t explicitly tell him not to, he’s going to play his best guys, and he’s going to ride them as hard as he needs to. Thibs is a perfectionist, and he obviously hates losing. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if part of why Noah rushed back was listening to Thibs rip into the team after losses to Brooklyn and Indiana and thinking “man, I need to get back out there so I can help.” I also wonder if maybe Rose’s absence isn’t playing a part here, with both Deng and Noah. Both guys know they have to compensate for him somehow, and they can’t do that from the bench.
SS: The one thing I don’t get from the standpoint of the front office is that if you consider how conservative they are regarding just about everything else, it’s odd that they’re allowing Thibs’/the players to be so irresponsible about injuries. As far as Deng and Noah’s expectations go, they’ve been in the league long enough to know they need to be a lot more patient with injuries.
CN: It is funny that in three years we’ve gone from John Paxson trying to fight Vinny Del Negro for exceeding Noah’s minutes limit to GarPax turning a blind eye to Thibs as he runs his players into the ground.
I guess that brings us to the main point here: Should Noah and/or Deng play in the all star game? Is it worth it?
SS: Here’s the thing: Everyone’s saying Noah should get a chance to play in it since it is his first time and all, which I understand, but what they’re forgetting is that he’s got a bunch more ahead of him. He’s improved every year he’s been in the league so why not?
As for Deng, he might not find his way back there, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is getting these two healthy. And if they’re healthy, they should play. If they aren’t, they should sit it out. That goes for non All-Star games too.
CN: Let’s not forget that Deng played all of about 6 minutes in last year’s game. So I feel like it would just be simpler for everyone involved if they — or at least Noah — just take the weekend off and focus on getting healthy. But that might very well make too much sense.

Tags: Joakim Noah Luol Deng Tom Thibodeau

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