Joakim Noah has been gracious in his public remarks about his reduced role on the Bulls this season, but it’s nonetheless easy to tell that he’s frustrated and wants more playing time, as Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com observed after Noah’s comments to the media Tuesday. The season has been rough for the soon-to-be free agent, as new coach Fred Hoiberg benched him in favor of Nikola Mirotic, making Pau Gasol the team’s clear-cut first-string center. Hoiberg nearly reversed course before a game against the Sixers last month and planned to put Noah in at the tip instead of Mirotic, but Noah pulled up lame during warmups and didn’t play in the game at all.
Hoiberg has kept Noah on the bench since that night, and entering Wednesday’s game, he’s averaging 20.6 minutes per contest, the fewest of his career. Noah is only scoring 3.1 points a night, a number that seemed unfathomable two years ago, when he was the All-NBA First Team center.
It’s a nightmarish scenario for the Bill Strickland client who turns 31 in February and whose contract is up at season’s end. It also presents a tricky situation for the Bulls, since Gasol can opt out at the end of the season and hit free agency, too. Chicago, which entered the season with two marquee centers, could have zero by the end of July.
That leads to our question of the day: What should the Bulls do with Joakim Noah?
Shoehorning him into the starting lineup next to Gasol wouldn’t fit with Hoiberg’s offensive philosophy or with the league’s movement toward small ball. Trading Noah would present its own difficult circumstances, since his value is probably at an all-time low, and any team that trades for him is liable to see him walk away in free agency this coming summer. Noah has played with heart and has no doubt become an important figure in the Chicago locker room over the years, but the demotion has apparently placed a strain on him, and there’s no telling how much longer he’ll continue to affect a positive attitude. The Bulls could replace Gasol with Noah in the starting lineup, since Gasol’s numbers are off this season, too, but that might only create a similar set of problems.
So, what say you? What can the Bulls do to make the best of this situation? Take to the comments section below to share your thoughts and opinions. We look forward to what you have to say.