Report: Joakim Noah’s knee will be an issue all season

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The Bulls depended on Joakim Noah last season, carrying them while Derrick Rose missed most of the year and after Luol Deng got traded.

Noah did so much to lift the Bulls to 48 wins, he finished fourth in MVP voting.

But that heavy workload took its toll. Noah played through knee pain the second half of the season, and he underwent “minor” surgery in the offseason that didn’t sound so minor.

Where does Noah stand now?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Jo’s [left] knee is going to be an issue all season,’’ the source said. “He has played through pain before with the plantar [fasciitis], but this is completely different, a different level.’’

According to the source, Noah entered camp “panicked’’ that he wouldn’t even be able to start the season in the lineup, let alone participate in camp like he has.

I’m not sure we should trust this source.

As the quoted paragraph shows, this source has already overreacted to the extent of the injury once. Noah has played in six of Chicago’s seven preseason games, including a combined 48 minutes in a back-to-back Sunday and Monday. Perhaps, the source is overreacting again.

And the source – described as “a member of the Noah camp” – has incentive to exaggerate the extent of the injury, which the Bulls have downplayed. The more serious of an injury Noah is playing through, the more heroic he seems. Maybe Cowley has developed such a strong relationship with this source that the information is reliable, but the report is hardly infallible.

However, when I asked a doctor about Noah’s “minor” surgery, Benjamin Wedro of MD Direct explained:

The injury can be acute or chronic. In the chronic injury, there is degeneration and wafting away of the cartilage tissue. It is a bigger deal when parts of the remaining cartilage is removed.

It may be relatively minor, but there is no such thing as minor surgery. The risk of developing arthritis later in life increases.

The Bulls – who kept Taj Gibson and added Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic – have plenty of depth at power forward and center. They can ease the burden on Noah – or, if Tom Thibodeau gets his way, play him 48 minutes per game. (I kid, I kid.)

I wouldn’t freak out about Noah’s health right now, but it’s worth monitoring. Consider this report a reason to keep your eyes pealed for further warning signs.