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Bulls shutting down Noah for a week, meaning he could miss opener vs. Heat

Updated: October 18, 2013 11:23PM



Playing villain comes easy for Joakim Noah.

So the idea of being in Miami to tip-off the season and play spoiler the same night the Heat is handed its rings is too good to pass up for the Bulls’ All-Star center.

Noah now might have little say in the matter.

Slowed by a groin strain that has kept him out of all but one preseason game, Noah will be shut down for the next week, putting his availability for the Oct. 29 regular-season opener in jeopardy.

“We’re going to shut Jo down,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said Friday before the Bulls beat the Indiana Pacers 103-98 in a preseason game at the United Center. “He’s got a little soreness, so we want to make sure we get that taken care of, so probably another week or so. We just want to make sure he’s completely healthy before we move forward.

“It’s better, but it’s not where we would like it to be. Like we want [Noah’s groin] completely healthy where he doesn’t feel it, and right now he’s feeling it, so we have to take care of that.’’

Just don’t let Noah know he could miss the opener against the Heat.

“We have a great opportunity in front of us,’’ Noah said. “Of course, I would rather be playing, but I’ve got to do the right thing and this is the right thing to do. Just move forward.

“Just have to let it heal and I’ll be back in no time.’’

Asked if there would be enough time for him to recover and make sure his conditioning was game-ready in time for the opener, Noah had a one-word reply.

“Yep,’’ he said.

Considering Noah was ruled out when the playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets began last season (plantar fasciitis), only to surprise everyone and play, he’s not the ­easiest player to count out.

Noah’s injury could influence the 13th roster spot. Guard Mike James seemed to have a slight lead, but center Dexter Pittman might be the choice with Noah iffy for the start of the season.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it could,’’ Thibodeau said, when asked if Noah’s injury could influence roster decisions. “We’re looking at what our needs are, and as I said, the one good thing is Jo has only played 19 minutes in the preseason. It has given us a look at Nazr [Mohammed], Taj [Gibson], Murph [Erik Murphy], and we also know that we have Luol [Deng] who can go to the four, Jimmy [Butler] who can go to the four, we have Mike Dunleavy who can go to the four. And that’s what I like about this team, the versatility. We’re still evaluating, and in the end we’ll do what’s best for the team.’’

For now, that means doing the best for Noah.

“I want to be out there,’’ Noah said, “but I’ve got to be healthy.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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