Joakim Noah, the heart and soul of the Chicago Bulls, sat on the bench for the final 22:53 of Saturday night’s 85-82 overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Just a coach’s decision,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said.
So was Thibodeau sending a message to Noah?
I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. Thibodeau said after the game that he was just riding the group that brought the Bulls back from a 17-point deficit, and that part is true. He has done that in the past. What was most surprising, and most telling, was that when Taj Gibson fouled out in overtime, Thibodeau opted to put little-used backup Nazr Mohammed into the game, not Noah.
A few teammates said they had spoken briefly to Noah but didn’t elaborate on the conversation. The emotional big man left the locker room before reporters were allowed in, marking the first time in recent memory he’s done left the locker room without speaking to reporters.