Updated: April 20, 2013 11:45PM
NEW YORK – It was a conversation that caught Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau off guard.
“Are you bull------- me?’’ Thibodeau said to Joakim Noah, after the center pleaded his case that he was ready to play in Game 1 against Brooklyn tonight.
“No,’’ Noah responded, minutes before the Saturday shootaround was ready to start.
And just like that, the Bulls might not be as shorthanded as originally thought.
According to Thibodeau, Noah went through the pregame warmups, and is now likely going to give the Bulls some minutes. The only question was would it come as a starter or off the bench. Thibodeau wasn’t saying.
“There will be some restrictions on him,’’ Thibodeau said. “As we explained the past couple games, he hasn’t had a problem playing nor after the game. It’s more the next day where the soreness comes into play.’’
That’s a quick change in the last 24 hours, and even eight hours, as Thibodeau all but ruled Noah out for Game 1 on Friday when there was a setback with the plantar fasciitis in his right foot, and even discussing it with the media before talking to Noah at the shootaround, sounded like a coach that would be without his emotional leader.
“He’s disappointed,’’ Thibodeau said of Noah on Saturday morning. “He put a lot of work in, it’s understandable. He just has to continue on with the rehab and hopefully it will improve.’’
Even Noah’s teammates were under the belief that they would be without the All-Star for at least Game 1.
“Anytime we can give Jo time to heal up, rest, it’s great,’’ reserve center/power forward Taj Gibson said. “We just have to go out there and play hard. We were in the same position last year, Joakim turned his ankle. We’re just trying to give him time to get right, and that’s a frustrating injury, I had it two years ago.’’
But Noah immediately took to the court for the start of the shootaround, taking shots and moving a bit in the paint. He then approached Thibodeau and pleaded his case.
The concern moving forward will now be making sure there aren’t setbacks with the foot, which is something they haven’t been able to avoid so far.
“The thing is it’s the type of injury where you don’t know how he’s going to feel the next day,’’ Thibodeau said. “It’s unusual. Some guys completely tear it and feel better right away. Some guys completely tear it and they have to shut it down. He’s had it before. He’s dealt with it. We just have to see how he is tomorrow.’’