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posted: 12/13/2012 9:04 PM

Can Bulls do anything to ease Noah's workload

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  • Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah (13) dunks the ball as Philadelphia 76ers' Jrue Holiday (11) watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

      Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah (13) dunks the ball as Philadelphia 76ers' Jrue Holiday (11) watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
    Associated Press

  • Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah reacts after Philadelphia 76ers' Spencer Hawes failed to score at the end of the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

      Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah reacts after Philadelphia 76ers' Spencer Hawes failed to score at the end of the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
    Associated Press

 

By Mike McGraw

The question is asked often: Should the Bulls use their limited cap space to add a player?

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Even though backcourt starters Kirk Hinrich and Richard Hamilton both were sidelined by injuries during Wednesday's victory at Philadelphia, that's not where they need help.

At point guard, Nate Robinson has played reasonably well in Hinrich's place. Then on the two occasions coach Tom Thibodeau turned to rookie Marquis Teague, the Bulls produced strong fourth quarters, including against the Sixers.

With Derrick Rose coming back in a couple of months, they'd be better off removing a point guard and opening up more time for Teague -- not that they'd actually do it, necessarily.

At shooting guard, there is plenty of depth now that Marco Belinelli has snapped out of his early slump to become an actual, functioning NBA player. They've also been able to use Jimmy Butler at shooting guard with good results.

The Bulls need to do something, though, about Joakim Noah's workload.

Noah ranks second in the NBA (behind Luol Deng) in minutes per game at 40.1. If he keeps this up, he'd be the first big man to average 40 minutes in a season since Tim Duncan in 2001-02.

The question is, can he keep it up? We know Noah plays with a naturally high motor, and we heard about how big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton helped increase his lung capacity.

But Noah been knocked out of action with a bad thumb and plantar fasciitis in previous seasons and a severely sprained ankle in last season's playoffs.

In other words, the Bulls should act now to get Noah's minutes down. Don't wait until he gets hurt.

The Bulls knew they'd take a hit in big-man depth when Omer Asik moved to Houston and veteran Nazr Mohammed was signed as a replacement. After a promising preseason, Mohammed has contributed very little.

In the past four games, while Noah averaged 43.5 minutes, Mohammed played a grand total of one minute, 20 seconds.

Thibodeau's explanation that Mohammed plays better against true centers and tall front lines makes sense, but it doesn't help the situation. If Thibodeau's not going to use Mohammed or Vladimir Radmanovic to give Noah some rest, is there anybody out there who is acceptable?

I know what dozens of Bulls fans are thinking -- sign Eddy Curry. Such a move seemed like the longest of longshots, considering the way he left town in 2005.

Remember the genetic testing controversy after Curry's heart scare? He has been OK since then, but we're not even sure if the Bulls would allow him back on the team.

On the other hand, Curry looked relatively thin and reasonably skilled when he played for Dallas in the season opener against the Lakers. After two games, though, the Mavericks released Curry so they could sign veteran Troy Murphy.

Here's the other problem with this idea: Last week Curry signed with Zhejiang Chouzhou Bank in the Chinese Basketball Association. He even delivered 25 points and 11 boards in his debut Wednesday.

But he's basically locked in until the Chinese season ends in March.

So assuming the Bulls won't be able to trade Hinrich or Robinson for a quality big man, who else is available?

The list is pretty short. There's Kenyon Martin, who turns 35 later this month. He finished last season with the Clippers and didn't contribute much. There was also a story going around that the Knicks were interested last summer, but he didn't want to sign for the veteran's minimum.

Anyone who won't take minimum salary is automatically out of the Bulls' price range, because of their hard salary-cap issues.

The Bulls could try Darko Milicic, not the most mobile of big men. Troy Murphy is available, since the Mavs let him go to sign Derek Fisher. When Zhejiang signed Curry, it released Josh Boone.

Boone made the Bulls look bad plenty of times when he played for the Nets and -- ignoring the fact he was just replaced by Curry -- there's a good chance he's more mobile than the alternatives.

The options are poor, but that only illuminates the problems the Bulls would face if Noah was lost with a significant injury. Any ounce of prevention in the way of decreased minutes figures to be a smart move.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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