HANG TIME CENTRAL – Mint a coin. Have your camera phones ready. Do not blink.
The Chicago Bulls are about to play an NBA game with everybody healthy. No telling when that might happen again.
Derrick Rose‘s return to regular-season play has been and will remain the biggest story of Chicago’s early 2013-14 schedule. But Rose’s absence clouded over the difficulty the Bulls had keeping their other plates spinning and intact, frankly, both before and after April 28, 2012 (the day he went down 18 months ago).
So when center Joakim Noah, after practice Sunday, pegged his chances at “100 percent” of facing Miami Tuesday in the teams’ opener and guard Kirk Hinrich said he too was confident of playing, it had a don’t-anybody-sneeze feel to it.
Noah had made just one preseason appearance after slipping in practice and suffering a groin strain early in camp. Several days earlier, both he and Hinrich seemed like longshots at best to face the Heat, from listening to coach Tom Thibodeau. But Noah told reporters at the team’s practice facility Sunday that missing the final tune-up against Denver Friday was a precaution only.
As competitive as he is, and as aware of the inevitability of getting through the two-time defending champs if his team hopes to chase a title, Noah figured to be straining at the leash if he had to sit out.
“Every time you play against Miami, it’s a statement,” Noah said. “In the beginning of our season, we’re a hungry group. It’s one of 82 but we know that every time we play against Miami it’s important.”
Noah didn’t seem concerned about a drop in his conditioning, though that seems likely to cut into his minutes after his limited October play. Hinrich, who suffered a concussion Oct. 18 and also was coping with a sore shoulder, endured a rigorous practice Sunday without setback.
Noah, Hinrich and the rest will be on hand at AmericanAirlines Arena Tuesday when commissioner David Stern presents the Heat with championship rings, and their 2012-13 title banner gets unveiled. The Bulls should consider themselves lucky if they exit south Florida empty-handed, as in no gauze, no splints, no walking boots. Game 2 of 82 comes Thursday at United Center against the Knicks.