"Obviously it affects us," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. "Not only from a statistical standpoint with his points and rebounds, but the energy that he brings. He'll still be around the team. But in the short term it's a blow. Carlos [Boozer] was just getting back in the mix and they were getting used to playing with each other, but we'll get that back."
In the short term, Forman did not rule out making a move to acquire another center.
"We'll continue to look at it," he said. "We've already talked some about the possibility of looking into either a trade or picking somebody up, but at this point, we'll go with what we have. We do think we have some depth. Taj [Gibson] has stepped in, obviously in the past and done a very good job. I think it's an opportunity for guys. It's an opportunity for Omer [Asik] to play some.
"Kurt Thomas, even a year ago when he was with Milwaukee found himself in this type of situation, ends up starting late in the year when [Andrew] Bogut comes back and did a very good job. I know [coach] Tom [Thibodeau] has been comfortable playing Luol [Deng] some at [the] four [position], so for now we'll go for what we have."
Noah also tore ligaments in his right index finger and right ring finger, but it's the thumb that the team was most concerned about. Bulls athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi said that Noah received platelet rich plasma injections in the other fingers and the team believes that with more rest those will heal. Noah will be re-evaluated Monday and may be able to begin cardiovascular activity soon thereafter.
Both Tedeschi and Forman were stunned that Noah was able to play through the pain, after originally injuring the thumb Nov. 27 against the Sacramento Kings.
"Every one of these I've dealt with, either through pain or instability, [the player has] never been able to play," Tedeschi said. "And your surgery was immediately called into the question. Joakim was able to function at a high level which was very, very, very unusual for these injuries."
"It really is amazing, and a testament to him, that he was able to play through this," Forman said. "Obviously, Joakim's a warrior and the beauty of Joakim is he's all about winning games and competing and I think we saw that the last couple weeks. At the end of the day he knew, and we all knew, and we were all on the same page that he had to have this done."
Tedeschi noted that the Bulls had a window of about a month to get the surgery done while there was still "good tissue" in the hand. After that, it becomes more complex, a risk the Bulls weren't willing to take.
In the meantime, Forman is confident that the Bulls will be able to hold their own without Noah in the lineup. He believes that by having the surgery now, it allows for Noah to come back right as the playoff drive begins.
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.