Taj Gibson wouldn't draw any conclusions about his sprained MCL, but he confirmed it was the same injury he had before, it felt about as bad as it felt before, and they'd take a look today with an MRI to see what's going on.
The injury was a non contact injury where Taj simply tried to sidestep on defense and his knee just buckled on him.
He admitted to getting nicked up over the past couple games and was trying to play through it. The Bulls should use this as a cautionary tale for bringing back Joakim Noah too early. Noah had already mentioned he thought he might give it a go this Thursday. Hopefully Taj's injury doesn't affect his decision one way or the other.
If the Bulls have any hope of escaping the first round, they'll need at least one of Noah or Taj to be playing at full strength, and if they want that hope to be any greater than 'longshot' then they'll need them both. Simply put, going into the season, we knew big man depth would be a huge issue, and the team escaped without any serious problems for a long time.
However, with a full season of wear and tear on the frontcourt, the injuries are starting to mount. The same old concerns rear their ugly head: Tom Thibodeau playing too much for the regular season, minutes being allocated too highly, the training staff not properly protecting our players from injuries by letting them come back too early, etc...
Sometimes, it feels like a finger needs to be pointed, but the reality is the Bulls injury situation isn't so unique or unexpected. Gibson and Noah are both thin players going against much more physical opponents, and guys in that position tend to get hurt frequently. Hinrich and Hamilton have both had significant injuries the past several seasons, so no surprise there either.
In fact, I've stated in the off-season both of the past two years that the Bulls carry an incredible amount of injury risk on their roster based on the history of the players on it. I've been frustrated as much as the next guy with the injuries, but Chicago took on a roster filled with guys with long injury histories, so it should be no surprise that they're dealing with injuries now.
The rest of the games are meaningless
As long as Chicago can win maybe three of their remaining nine games they'll stay ahead of Milwaukee, and given we don't know whether the 6th or 7th seed is really going to be better anyway staying ahead of Boston is somewhat irrelevant [though I'd hazard a guess three wins keeps you ahead of Boston too].
The Bulls have plenty of games left against lesser teams to pad things out, and even their depleted roster should manage to get at least three wins. That being the case, Chicago has to focus on getting everyone as healthy as possible rather than trying to grind out wins.
Of course with Derrick Rose looking like he'll sit out the full season, the ultimate upside for the Bulls is likely a 1st or 2nd round exit either way. Particularly if the front court can't get healthy, and Taj Gibson may not have enough time to get healthy regardless. Still, if the Bulls want any hope of keeping their season and slim championship hopes (would require a Rose miracle along with plenty of other miracles) then they'll need to take the Doc Rivers strategy of maximizing health over wins the rest of the year.
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