CHICAGO, February 21 – Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, who has missed 30 NBA games after surgery on his right thumb, will return on Wednesday when the Bulls play at Toronto, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told ESPN on Monday.
Thibodeau said Noah was cleared to play last week but was rested until after the break for the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.
Noah, the son of French tennis legend Yannick Noah, was averaging 14 points and 11.7 rebounds a game before undergoing an operation to repair torn right hand and thumb ligaments. he has not played since December 15.
He had been working on his fitness and practicing shots after Bulls workouts.
Without Noah, the Bulls have gone 22-8 and are 38-16, the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind fellow division leaders Boston and Miami.
Carlos Boozer has played only nine games alongside Noah, but if the two can quickly blend well, Chicago could threaten the conference leaders.
"Just like at the start of the season, the challenge is how quickly everyone can get on the same page," Thibodeau told ESPN. "When someone comes back, it’s the same thing. You don’t want it to be a long adjustment."
The Bulls will play host to Miami on Thursday, giving everyone a chance to see how well Noah can blend back into the lineup when facing the challenge of all-stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.