CHICAGO -- The big question surrounding Joakim Noah after his latest plantar fasciitis setback has been: Will he return before the regular season?
That's the wrong question.
The more important one is: Why should he return before the playoffs?
As the Bulls head into the final week of the regular season, Noah's status has become a hot topic of conversation because of his importance to the defensive system Tom Thibodeau has put into place. It's that importance that should make the decision regarding Noah's status easy for Thibodeau and company. Shut him down for the regular season, give his feet another week and a half of rest, and then bring him back for the playoffs.
The problem is that a week and a half of rest probably isn't going to do any good for his feet. He received a cortisone shot in his right foot recently and is hopeful that that will alleviate some of the pain, but he has been down this road before in regards to plantar fasciitis. Having dealt with this injury three seasons ago, Noah knows this is all about pain tolerance from here on out. He knows it all depends on how he feels on a day-to-day basis and how much he feels he'll be able to help the team without hurting himself further.
Noah probably understands it's in his best interest to sit for the rest of the week and get rid of some soreness. An aching Noah in the postseason is still better than no Noah at all.
Despite all the injuries the Bulls have endured this season, they still have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs if they can get healthy. Of course, that's all contingent on Noah being able to play, and play at a relatively high level.
In the grand scheme of the season the next five games don't matter too much. Sure, the Bulls would love to have as high of a seed as they can possibly have -- especially if it means the difference between Indiana and Brooklyn in the first round -- but if it comes at the expense of being able to use Noah in the playoffs then all is for naught.
Noah is too important of a piece to have Thibodeau risk his health now. The emotional big man may not even be able to play major minutes in the playoffs given his foot problem, but why even take the chance now considering what's at stake?