The reality of the Joakim Noah injury situation may have hit the Bulls locker room hard, but as this group knows all too well, life goes on.
The hope, however, is that while Noah won’t available on the court for his teammates, he’ll be there for them off the court.
The free agent-to-be underwent successful season-ending shoulder surgery Tuesday morning, and on Wednesday Fred Hoiberg was able to communicate with the big man, getting a feel of where he was at mentally.
“I messaged with Jo,’’ Hoiberg said. “He’s in great spirits. He’s excited to get back here. He hopes to get back here this weekend. I know he’s excited to get back and be with his teammates. He’s in very good spirits.’’
According to Hoiberg, with the dislocated left shoulder now repaired, there will be a lengthy rehabilitation program that was still being mapped out. It’s likely that Noah would remain away from the team initially to get that started, as the team was still figuring out if he would even begin the process in town or elsewhere.
“The rehab is still figuring out exactly when and where he’s going to do that,’’ Hoiberg said. “The first couple weeks obviously he won’t do much. But I know he wants to be around his teammates. And we want him here as well.’’
Jimmy Butler agreed with his coach.
“It’s tough,’’ Butler said. “But we’re still expected to win games. Hopefully we’ll get to see him here soon. He’s still going to be joking around even though he won’t be playing with us. That’s big. We need that when he’s here with his smile.’’
Veteran Kirk Hinrich missed his second consecutive game with a left quad contusion, and the Bulls could likely be without him throughout the back-to-back this weekend in Boston and then Cleveland.
“It is a big loss,’’ Hoiberg said. “We’re going to have to have guys step up. It’s not going to be just one guy.’’
Hoiberg also updated Mike Dunleavy (back surgery) and his status, saying that the hope was Dunleavy would start taking contact in about two weeks.
The NBA announced that the Bulls finished second in team merchandise sales, again finishing behind Golden State. Not only did the Warriors win the team honor, but the individual honor, as Stephen Curry topped the list.
Following Curry was LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, New York rookie Kristaps Porzingis, and then Kevin Durant. Derrick Rose finished sixth, but making his debut in the top 10 was All-Star guard Jimmy Butler.