Bulls Center Joakim Noah at Bulls Media Day 2015 (photo by John Alexander)

All good things must come to an end and it felt like Bulls center and longtime vocal leader, Joakim Noah was tip toeing his way towards the end of his Bulls career all season.

Rookie Head Coach Fred Hoiberg’s first “I’m the captain now” move was minimizing Joakim’s role on the team, effectively snatching his voice from him and rendering the Bulls leaderless.

From the bench, Joakim struggled to step into his usual role as being the Bulls’ heart and soul. Instead, his pedal to the metal type of effort felt empty. Trade rumors, rumbles of unhappiness from Joakim about his role on the team and a left shoulder injury that kept him off the court for 9 games in late December were all signs that the end was near.

But that didn’t make it any easier to watch #13 sprint off the United Center court in excruciating pain last Friday night vs the Dallas Mavericks because he dislocated that same left shoulder.

To put it quite simply, that shit sucked.

Now, with Joakim’s season officially in doubt due to surgery he’ll have to have to repair his dislocated left shoulder, the coffin has dropped six feet deep on the Joakim Noah era and overcoming his absence will be a challenge for the rest of this season.

“Everybody’s got to be prepared to fill in for what Jo gave us, which was a lot.” Said Fred Hoiberg when asked about how the Bulls would replace Noah. “He was our best low post defender and one of the best playmakers on our team. His passion and energy will have to be made up by the team, not just one guy.”, Hoiberg continued.

The bottom line is a player like Joakim Noah cannot be replaced and whether or not the Bulls front office plan to address Noah’s absence with a trade seems unlikely at best as Hoiberg told reporters that he doesn’t think “there’s anything serious out there.”

Any hope of filling the void left by Noah will have to come from a team effort. This a “next man up” league.

Fred Hoiberg will have to be creative with his front court. Players like Taj Gibson and rookie, Bobby Portis will have to bring the energy on a nightly basis.

Pau Gasol is now the teams best rim protector.

There may even be Christiano Felicio and Cameron Bairstow sightings. But the question that has haunted the Bulls all season will remain.

Where will the leadership come from?

Fans seem to only be worried about who’s team it is…Jimmy’s? or Derrick’s? It will be interesting to see if fans are willing to accept that they will need each other more than ever in Noah’s absence. This is now their team.

The more immediate issue is who will stop Andre Drummond as the Bulls begin the post-Noah era this afternoon in Detroit vs the Pistons, which was already a hell of a task with Noah playing.

Joakim Noah embodied the Bulls spirit with his energy and spirit both on and off the court. Nobody wanted to see him go out this way.

For the Bulls, the future is now.

Long live #13.


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