Heading into Tuesday night, it had been more than five months since we'd seen Joakim Noah take the floor for live, competitive action, thanks to a severe left-ankle sprain suffered during the Chicago Bulls' loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 3 of the 2011-12 NBA playoffs that sidelined him for the remainder of Chicago's first-round defeat and kept him from suiting up for France at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. But at Media Day, the Bulls' starting center declared himself "ready to go" following extensive summer rehab, setting the stage for his return to the floor in Chicago's Tuesday night preseason opener against the Memphis Grizzlies — and, mercifully for Bulls fans (who really don't need more bad injury news right now, or any time in the foreseeable future), he looked nice and spry running the floor.
Peep this second-quarter fast break, keyed by a Luol Deng steal, extended by some tic-tac-toe passing between Deng and returning guard Kirk Hinrich, and finishing, somewhat acrobatically, with a nifty lay-in by a rim-running Noah at full gallop:
Noah also got on his horse in the third quarter, after a Hinrich block started a break that saw Joakim take off from the shadow of his own basket and beat two Grizzlies defenders down the court:
Coming off an ankle injury, it's great to see Noah taking off full-blast like that, and, perhaps more importantly, taking contact from defenders in the air and coming down without anything in the way of ill effects. He played 18 1/2 solid minutes against the Grizzlies, scoring 10 points (on 4-for-6 shooting), grabbing seven rebounds, dishing four assists with a block and a steal in Chicago's 92-88 win.
Also, because we can always learn so much about what the regular season will look like from preseason games, it's clear that one way in which the Bulls intend to make up for the absence of Derrick Rose (however long said absence may be) is to turn opponents over on the sidelines and in the corners, and then find a streaking Joakim Noah for acrobatic, high-arcing layups. It remains to be seen how efficient and sustainable an offense that can be, but if nothing else, it shows that Tom Thibodeau's still willing to be creative, even after getting paid.
Seriously, though: Welcome back, Joakim. Good to see you. Now, let's just make sure we dial up some finger-guns next time you make one of these puppies, just to show us you're all the way live.