Noah back in Bulls' lineup

Updated: February 21, 2010, 12:21 AM ET
By Nick Friedell |

CHICAGO -- Bulls center Joakim Noah returned to the lineup Saturday night for the first time in more than two weeks.

Noah, who has been sidelined for the last seven games due to plantar fasciitis, came off the bench and play just 7 minutes against the Philadelphia 76ers in Chicago's 122-90 win at the United Center.

Noah entered the game to loud cheers with 3:33 left in the first quarter but heard loud groans from the crowd late in the period when he missed a wide open dunk. His teammates let him hear it, too.

"I'm happy with the win," Noah said. "I'm not happy with the missed dunk, but I guess that happens. Those guys on the bench were killing me all game. I think I was just so excited. I guess I should have laid it in."

Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro was excited to have Noah back, but wanted to be cautious about how he uses him.

"We'll try to limit his minutes a little bit," Del Negro said before the game. "We'll put him in the first half, see how he feels. And then we'll make a decision at halftime how he's doing. If he feels good, I'll play him in the second [half]. If he doesn't I'll sit him down."

While Noah was happy to be back on the floor, he admited he still isn't 100 percent healthy.

"I don't even think it's just the foot," he said before tip-off. "I think it's just the conditioning aspect. Not being out there for a little while is going to hurt. But I'm really excited to be able to go out there and play and help the team. Regardless if it's two minutes or twenty minutes or 30 minutes. I just want to be out there and I want to help the team."

Considering he was averaging 12.0 rebounds and was tied for second in the league entering the game, the Bulls certainly need a healthy Noah down the stretch. He said he felt fine afterward.

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined for its launch in April 2009.