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Bulls-Nets rivalry lacks bite without Joakim Noah

The “No Biting’’ pre-game warning from the referees for the Bulls-Nets game tonight will have to wait until possibly Dec. 30, now that the Joakim Noah-Kevin Garnett rivalry is on hold.

Noah, who has been battling left knee issues all season long and is now working through an ankle injury, is out in the showdown with long-time nemesis Garnett, with no immediate timetable for a return.

“We’re going day by day. We’ll see,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said of Noah, following the Wednesday shootaround.

When asked if it was only the right ankle that was keeping Noah sidelined, Thibodeau said, “He’s still working through the knee as well.’’

Unfortunate, considering Garnett’s days could be coming to an end, with retirement a real possibility after this season, and the NBA losing out on a good old fashioned rivalry.

“He was my favorite player growing up,’’ Noah said of Garnett. “It’s always easy to get up for that game playing against him. He’s a hell of a competitor. When he’s gone, I’m going to miss playing against him.’’

The last time the two squared off was ten days ago in Brooklyn, where Garnett was caught on tape actually trying to bite Noah’s hand.

“All I know is Kevin tries to win, by any means necessary,’’ Thibodeau, who coached Garnett in Boston, said. “He’s had a remarkable career. He’s one of the great competitors in the history of the league. I have great respect for what he has done.’’

Bigger concerns for Thibodeau remain the injuries, as Doug McDermott (right knee) will also miss the game against the Nets.

And while Taj Gibson admitted that the last two days of practice have been hard ones, the idea that the Bulls are frequently battling through injuries because of how hard Thibodeau pushes them was “unfair.’’

“This is the league,’’ Gibson said. “We gotta improve, get better. You’re not going to get better having days off and going slow motion at times. Guys’ bodies just have to adjust. You have to maintain your body. That’s one thing about being a pro, you have to maintain your body and maintain your game. That’s one of the things about this league that separates guys from others.

“We just have some bad luck. I truly believe that because guys really work hard on their bodies. We really are one of those teams that push it to the edge as far as guys taking their time, taking treatment, eating right, working out after practice. Guys really put in the time. It’s just sad that every time we just have some bad luck.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @suntimes_hoops