Joakim Noah to have thumb surgery

Updated: December 16, 2010, 9:45 AM ET
By Nick Friedell | ESPNChicago.com

TORONTO -- Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah will have surgery Thursday to repair a torn ulna collateral ligament in his right thumb, the team announced.

Noah, who was in the starting lineup Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors despite the injury, is likely to miss 8-10 weeks. He had 11 points and 11 rebounds as the Bulls beat the Raptors 110-93 for their seventh straight victory.

"I feel like it's just tough not playing at a high level," Noah said following Wednesday's game. "It's hurting and I'm playing and I've got to take anti-inflammatories every time I play. I can't practice. I have to get right. I have to get right and get back to this team. I'm going to miss playing with the guys. It's frustrating because I feel like we have a chance to be really, really good. And I've never been in a situation where we're winning like this. But I know in the long run, this is what needs to be done.

"I've had the same exact surgery before on my left hand. It sucks. It's not what I want, but you can't ... I've [played] through it for a couple weeks now and I got to get back to playing at a high level."

Noah originally hurt the thumb in a 96-85 win over the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 27. After the game he began wearing a taped wrap over it, but he tweaked it again Dec. 4 in a 119-116 win over the Houston Rockets. The Bulls, in a statement, said he had been playing with "ongoing discomfort and slight functional impairment. Additionally, Noah has had significant sprains of his right index and middle fingers, which will not require surgery."

Noah said following Wednesday's game that he believes he has three torn ligaments: one in his right thumb, one in his right index finger and one in his right ring finger.

"As the days proceeded from the original injury, it became clear for all that surgery was best for Joakim," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said in the statement. "We have always valued Joakim's toughness and willingness to put the team above himself, but in this case his health took precedence."

This won't be the first time the Bulls will go through a chunk of the season short-handed. Carlos Boozer, the team's biggest offseason acquisition, didn't make his season debut until Dec. 2 after suffering a broken pinkie in early October.

The Bulls likely will turn to big men Taj Gibson and Omer Asik to fill the void left by Noah's absence.

"It's disappointing for Jo," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "But for us, we're confident in the ability of the guys that we have. So we have more than enough to win with. Taj has played extremely well for us. Kurt [Thomas] has played well for us. Luol [Deng] has played well at the 4. So we have a number of players that can step up. Omer. We keep moving."

The surgery will be performed by Mark Cohen and John Fernandez of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center.

"Joakim's injury presentation was unusual in that he was able to function at a high level with the injury," Bulls physician Brian Cole said in a statement. "More often, athletes are unable to play at all due to pain and instability of the thumb."

Noah signed a five-year extension worth close to $60 million before the season. He is averaging 14.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. His absence will be a huge loss for the Bulls.

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.

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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