With a nasty virus running through the Thonus household, I missed all but the closing minutes of the game. However, while our worst fears of Joakim Noah's absence haven't been realized, the team clearly badly misses its star center. The Bulls are winless on the road in 2011, they've dropped three games all three are ones they should have won against inferior teams; the Nets, 76ers, and now the Bobcats.
What does this mean about the Bulls as contenders? Probably not too much. Do you judge the Heat if they lose Chris Bosh and struggle? Would the Spurs be the same without one of their big three? That's the Bulls right now. They're a team that's made up of a big three. Three guys with the vast majority of the productivity, a nice fourth guy in Deng, and some decent bench guys.
Missing one of their best, things simply aren't the same. Joakim Noah is the second best player on this team. The team is 9-6 with Boozer out and Noah playing while it's 9-5 with Noah out and Boozer playing. Advantage Boozer? No.
The losses without Noah?
@Nuggets (also without Rose)
The losses without Boozer?
This team was playing considerably better early in the season despite a shakier record. The Bulls are barely beating teams they're supposed to beat and losing to a bunch of teams they should beat now.
This isn't knocking Boozer, but it is meant to highlight just how important Joakim Noah is to this team. He sets the emotional tone for the team. He brings the energy. He allows them to play at a fast pace. The Bulls offense is hurt considerably without him, and while Kurt Thomas has done an amazing job under the circumstances, the defense is hurt without him as well.
So the Bulls will continue to fight to tread water until Noah gets back. I'd say it's time to bench Bogans and stop putting the team in such a deficit, but those complaints are falling on deaf ears at this point.
What's worse is the Bulls brand of basketball has turned ugly as well. There are still some great plays from Rose here and there, perhaps a Ronnie Brewer breakaway dunk, but without Noah the team has become a slow down, grind it out, ugly it up squad.
All that said, they're still chugging along at a pace above 50 wins. This team without one of its best players is sill rolling around a 50 win pace waiting for health, and if they can maintain it through the rest of the season once Noah comes back, they'll still be a threat to come out of the East.