That Chicago GM Gar Foreman might prioritize Joakim Noah’s long-term health versus the Bulls’ struggle to claim the Eastern Conference’s 8th playoff spot is entirely to the Chicago GM’s credit. If his instructions are unclear or contradictory, however, it only serves to increase public perception that head coach Vinny Del Negro (above) is ill-suited for his current position. After Noah played a grand total of 12 seconds in the two overtime stanzas of a loss to lowly New Jersey last night, Del Negro told the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson and other reporters his hands were essentially tied by Foreman.
“Jo’s minutes have been limited to 35 the last couple of games,” Del Negro said. “There’s been a lot of discussion about it. He was under a 35-minute mandate (Friday) night. I couldn’t get him out of the game at the end so we played him a little more. (35 minutes, 39 seconds in regulation).
“I felt we could stretch him out a little just because of the importance of the game. So I had (player development coach) Lindsey (Hunter) go talk to Gar about it to make sure it was OK. I wanted to put him in if there was 10 seconds to go or the 3.6 seconds (for the Nets’ final possession of regulation) but I hadn’t got the authority yet to do that. When I got the OK to put him back in, I put him back in during that first overtime to try to get that stop. So there was some miscommunication.”
Asked what impression he was under after receiving clearance from management through Hunter, Del Negro said: “Play him 35 minutes. And then when he went a little over, play him in last-possession situations. I didn’t get that answer until the overtime. Once I got it, we’re into the overtime. My interpretation of that was not to play him to 40-45 minutes. But if we needed a stop, put him back in. That was the understanding. And there was probably some miscommunication.”
Forman said late Friday management cleared Noah to play as much as needed during the two overtime sessions.
The Baseline’s Eric Freeman advanced the argument the other day that the 8th spot duel between Chicago and Toronto is inextricably tied to both clubs’ pursuit of the Raptors’ free-agent-to-be Chris Bosh. It’s a reasonable enough conclusion, but none of June’s free agent crop can possibly be impressed with the dysfunctional relationship between Del Negro and his paymasters.