Joakim Noah’s stats from last night don’t look terribly impressive. 11 points and 10 rebounds in a little over 25 minutes is solid, but unspectacular in and of itself. Having said that, nobody who watched the game can deny the impact he made, or how gritty his performance was, or how desperately the Chicago Bulls needed it.
I’m going to put this out front: I missed Noah’s 30-20 game against Detroit in December, so last night comes in second on my list of memorable Noah moments. The first is still his dunk over Paul Pierce in game six of the first round in 2009. Third is his points-rebounds-blocks triple-double in February. Fourth was when he called Cleveland a dump in 2010. Fifth is is general existence. This was one of the coolest Bulls-related things I remember witnessing going back to last year.
That said, I have some quibbles with part of the experience.
I, somewhat unfortunately, do not currently live in Chicago. I go to school at Michigan State University, so I’m currently in East Lansing, Mich. As such, I can’t directly confirm that the Chicago media is collectively freaking out about Joakim Noah’s performance last night. But I suspect they are, and I wouldn’t be totally shocked if some writers went to the — totally insane — point of comparing last night to Michael Jordan’s Flu Game, or, god forbid, The Willis Reed Game.
Let’s get a couple of things straight here. Both of those games were a) in the NBA Finals and b) pretty much must-win — literally must-win, in Reed’s case. Noah’s performance was amazing and awesome and I’m grateful I was able to see it, but it’s game two of the first round. Settle down.
Here’s another thing I’m sure someone, somewhere is doing as we speak, although I haven’t bothered to look — mostly because I don’t want to: Asking how Derrick Rose can watch Joakim Noah go balls-to-the-wall in this game and then continue sitting games out. This is stupid, and I’m going to tell you why.
First of all, Joakim Noah is not playing through an ACL tear. He’s playing with plantar fasciitis, a condition where the connective tissue in the sole of one’s foot becomes inflamed, making it extremely painful to do much of anything that involves standing or walking. It is not a career-threatening injury by any stretch of the imagination, and while it’s extremely painful, there’s little — if any — structural damage involved. Mr. Rose, on the other hand, is coming back from an injury that used to literally end athletes’ careers on the spot and still involves several months of intense, painful rehab. The two situations are similar in the same sense that walking into a doorframe is similar to getting hit by a truck. They’re both collisions, but the orders of magnitude are so far removed from each other as to render the entire analogy meaningless.
Second, although this is really an extension of my first point, is that Rose isn’t playing because he’s still in pain — at least, that’s how I’ve been reading the stories. Rose isn’t playing because he’s still not convinced he can do what he needs to do on a basketball court. Noah can go out and have relative confidence that even if he’s in pain, he can’t really do any long-term damage to himself. Rose doesn’t have that.
Furthermore, I posited on Sunday that perhaps Noah’s experiences with the training staff might well have discouraged him from playing. But the important point is that the two things have nothing to do with each other. There is no realistic comparison to be made between Noah gutting out 25 minutes on a gimpy foot and Rose trying to come back from an ACL tear.
Oh, and also, if I’m right — and I’m not — maybe this whole discussion will be rendered moot on Thursday.
Although, I suppose in that case we’d hear dozens of stories about how “inspired” Rose was by Noah’s game, regardless of how true or false that was. Sigh.
Don’t ruin this for me, media.