Noah just happy to be playing

Updated: March 22, 2010, 3:08 PM ET
By Nick Friedell | ESPNChicago.com

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah is only expected to play about 12 minutes on Monday night against the Houston Rockets, but after sitting out for the better part of almost two months because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot, he will gladly take it.

For Noah, just being back on the floor is a rejuvenating experience in itself.

"It puts a lot of things in perspective," he said after Monday morning's shootaround. "You want to be out there on the court. You just realize how much you miss the game. It was a frustrating time. All I wanted to do was just be out there. It was a little depressing. But like I said, it puts a lot of things in perspective. It makes me happier to be out there."

It was no coincidence that the Bulls snapped their 10-game losing streak on Saturday night against the Philadelphia 76ers because Noah and Derrick Rose [sprained wrist] were back in the lineup.

Noah's impact is something that everybody on the team can feel.

"It's great having him back," Rose said. "He brings up the energy. Just make sure everything out there is positive. Always getting rebounds, being active out there. That's why we need him out there to play."

But after sitting out for so long, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro knows he must watch his center very carefully down the stretch. After playing just over nine minutes on Saturday, Del Negro hopes to play Noah no more than 13 on Monday.

"Hopefully, we'll get Jo a couple more minutes [Monday night]. He's feeling pretty good, so that's a good sign," Del Negro said. "Derrick had no ill effects [Saturday] night, so that's another good sign."

The caution was present in his voice though.

"I'll try to keep it as consistent as possible and see how he feels," Del Negro said. "There still has to be a process involved. You just can't throw him out there and throw him out there 30 minutes and the next day his foot's sore. So let's see if we can build it up a little bit. Time is of the essence, obviously. But, we're going to try to be smart about it and build that up."

Noah understands. But, that doesn't mean he's stopped trying to squeeze a little more playing time out of his coach.

"I got to negotiate, man," he said with a smile. "Every day I got to negotiate. No, I'm just happy to be out there. Help the team as much as I can. It's going to be a little process. I'm just happy I think we're making the right strides."

Noah realizes that things could be worse considering all the pain he's dealt with recently.

"It makes me happy every morning when I wake up and there's no pain in your feet," he said. "What makes me happy is to be out there on the court. I'm happy that I'm going to be able to do that."

Even the uber-confident Noah admits that he still has some nerves in regards to how hard to push his injury-riddled foot, but he knows that the more he plays, the easier it will be for his body to get to normal.

"Just being out for so long, you've got to get your confidence back," he said. "But it will come. I'm not worried about it."

With Noah back in the lineup, the Bulls have a lot less to worry about as well.

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.

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 ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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