Joakim Noah’s knee problems a growing concern as Bulls lose in D.C.

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WASHINGTON — Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is fond of saying, ‘‘I’m concerned about everything,’’ when he talks about his team.

He can put center Joakim Noah atop that list after the Bulls’ 102-86

loss Friday to the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center.

Not only did Noah shoot 1-for-5 from the field and score just three points, but he allowed Wizards big men Marcin Gortat and Nene to run layup lines most of the evening. The two combined for 36 points and 24 rebounds.

Afterward, Thibodeau detailed the troubles Noah — the reigning Defensive Player of the Year — has had returning from offseason surgery on his left knee.

‘‘He’s still working through things,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s out there battling. He’ll find his way.

‘‘You hate to see him get frustrated. It’s been a very long rehab for him. He has to continue to work at it, almost have a blind faith that it’s going to work out — and it will. He’s putting time in. We need him.’’

When he was asked why he thought it would work out, Thibodeau said: ‘‘Just as he gets his timing, continues to strengthen his leg. All that stuff takes a lot of time. And you can’t get frustrated with it. You’ve got to just keep on working, and it will get better.’’

The Sun-Times reported in October that Noah’s knee would be a seasonlong issue, but the Bulls have done their best to downplay just how high a hill he has to climb.

Still, Noah’s numbers are down from 12.6 points and 11.3 rebounds last season to 8.2 points and 9.8 rebounds this season. His dropping statistics have been affected by a minutes restriction, the addition of Pau Gasol down low and the fact the offense no longer has to run through him with Derrick Rose back at point guard. But the explosiveness that made Noah the ultimate blue-collar player has been inconsistent at best this season.

Noah has been guarded about the condition of his knee for most of the season, and the loss to the Wizards didn’t change that.

‘‘I’ll be all right, I’ll be all right,’’ he said when asked about the knee.

And how does he know he’ll be all right?

‘‘Just keep working,’’ Noah said. ‘‘I’m a worker, and I’m never going to stop until I get it right.’’

One bright spot for the Bulls was Rose. He said he didn’t attend a White House tour with his teammates Thursday because this was a ‘‘business trip,’’ and he approached it that way, scoring 19 points on 8-for-19 shooting. That was much improved from the 25.5 percent shooting he had displayed in the last six games.

But even Rose couldn’t help the Bulls overcome a 30-13 deficit after the first quarter.

‘‘Energy once again,’’ Rose said of what was missing early. ‘‘Just got to figure it out.’’


Twitter: @suntimes_hoops

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