Noah, Hinrich return to practice

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich returned to practice Thursday, but both ailing Chicago Bulls players remain in doubt for Friday’s preseason finale at home against the Denver Nuggets.

Noah even remains in doubt for Tuesday’s regular-season opener against the Miami Heat as he deals with a groin injury, with Bulls executive vice president John Paxson admitting that the center is “behind” in the rehab process.

“It's a nagging injury but where he's suffered is really with his conditioning,” Paxson said Thursday on “The Waddle and Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “Because he has not been able to be out on the practice floor and do the basketball conditioning that he needs to do in order to play, that's what he's lost in this process.

“Now if this had happened maybe midseason, where he had some volume of games and practices under his belt, it might not have been as big an issue. But it happened right at the beginning of training camp.”

After practice, Noah had an extended workout on the treadmill at high speed.

Hinrich’s return to practice came after he passed a concussion test. But he is still being slowed by a sore shoulder. He suffered the concussion and shoulder injury when he ran into the knee of rookie Erik Murphy during Friday’s game against Indiana.

“I’ve been feeling much better, though,” Hinrich said after practice Thursday. “I’m starting to feel more confident. I’m glad the concussion thing is hopefully behind me. I’m just taking it day-by-day.”

Hinrich still hopes he can play Friday and remains confident he will be ready by Tuesday. Noah, on the other hand, might not be as fortunate. Paxson was asked directly if Noah will play against the Miami Heat.

“I have no idea," Paxson said. “I'm sitting here from the standpoint of saying he has not practiced much at all during training camp and if we are going to put him out on the floor the first game -- I know the tendency is it's a big game, it's Miami, their ring night all that kind of thing -- we want to get off to a great start, but you have to keep the big picture in mind, too.

"We're not making that decision today of what he's going to do. If he feels really good in the next few days and gets some practices under his belt and we observe that he's doing OK, if our medical think it's not a risk of re-injury, or the conditioning component, these are all things we'll weigh over the weekend and into early next week. But he is behind. The conditioning thing, it's a big thing and you have to be in shape to play this game.”

Coach Tom Thibodeau was a little more succinct when it came to Noah’s status for the opener.

“I look at when a guy has basically missed all of training camp, so we have to proceed with caution,” Thibodeau said.