Bulls' Noah still battling foot injury

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Joakim Noah was back at practice Tuesday afternoon but he still wasn't close to being 100 percent.

The Chicago Bulls center has been dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot for well over a month. He missed seven games over the past couple of weeks, and has played just 19 combined in the last two.

"He was a little bit sore," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said after practice. "But he felt better this morning than he did last night, so that was a good sign."

Del Negro knows that no matter what the organization decides to do with Noah for the rest of the season, he won't be able to play like he did earlier in the season.

"It's not going to get better," Del Negro said. "I've had it. It's tough to get rid off. You get rid of it with a lot of rest and therapy and things.

"We're in February right now. We've got a lot of basketball left. We need him to do whatever he can to get out there and get his minutes up. Get his conditioning up. Get some rebounds and have a presence for us."

The coach is just hoping Noah can come back and have a bigger impact soon.

"We want him out there," he said. "It's just that he's not healthy. His foot is healing as fast as it can.

"It's frustrating for him, I'm sure. But he's just got to keep on getting his rest, getting his therapy and hopefully, it will continue to improve."

Del Negro said any increased minutes for Noah will depend on what he communicates to the team's medical staff.

"When he says he's not sore," Del Negro said. "And you can tell he's running with his normal gait and things, instead of kind of hobbling and dragging his foot a little bit. You can tell when it's bothering him. You can see it on his face.

"He's had a lot of therapy and a lot of time, but those are difficult injuries. And everyone is a little bit different -- where it is on your foot. We'll just take it a day at a time. See how he feels. And increase his minutes as we see fit."

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.