Joakim Noah has a chair in front of his locker at the United Center. But after most games, he could use a recliner or a couch or even a bed. He's wiped out.
''I'm tired,'' Noah said after scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, with five assists and four blocked shots in the Bulls' 96-85 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night. ''Pretty tired.''
After back-to-back stellar games against the 76ers on Thursday and the Nets on Saturday, Noah's fatigue -- and the wear and tear on his right foot still being treated for plantar fasciitis -- bears watching heading into Sunday night's game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The issue of Noah's playing time cropped up again after he played 41 minutes in a game the Bulls led by 14 points or more throughout the second half. Even Noah seemed to be wondering why he played the final 6:25 of the fourth quarter when the Bulls were leading by 19 points.
Asked if playing 40 minutes a game is a bigger challenge mentally or physically, Noah nearly brought the minutes issue front-and-center.
''It's definitely physical ... definitely both,'' he said. ''It's not really right after the game, but the next morning is the roughest. We have a great coach, but he doesn't understand the whole resting [thing] yet, I don't think. So ... it's all good. We all want to win. So, it's good.''
We'll see how good it is Sunday night in Indianapolis, when Noah and the Bulls take on the team that has wrested the title of ''biggest threat to the Heat'' from the Derrick Rose-less Bulls. The Pacers challenge the Bulls as well as any team in the NBA and with Richard Hamilton and Taj Gibson also out, it likely will take a typical energy-and-effort performance by Noah for the Bulls to compete on an even level with the upstart Pacers.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau played four starters eight minutes or more in the fourth quarter of a blowout in which the Bulls led by 14 points or more throughout -- Noah (7:49), Kirk Hinrich (10:40), Marco Belinelli (7:55) and Luol Deng (12:00).
''I saw the way the game was going,'' Thibodeau explained. ''You're jogging back. They've got a lot of three-point shooting on the floor. A 10-point lead can dissipate in a minute -- you knock down three threes, you get a foul, boom. And then we were in the penalty. We were recklessly fouling. We've got to do better.''
Thibodeau's options were more limited than normal. Hamilton, Gibson and Rose were unavailable. Lou Amundson practiced for the first time with the Bulls earlier Saturday at a Berto Center shootaround. But if you can't trust Nate Robinson and Nazr Mohammed with a 20-point lead with 6:35 to go against the Nets at home -- they were subbed by Noah and Belinelli -- what are they doing on your team?
And Thibodeau bristled when asked if it would have been advantageous to rest the starters, ''given you've got a big back-to-back tomorrow against the Pacers.''
''It's a big game because it's the next game,'' Thibodeau said curtly.
To Thibodeau, the Pacers game didn't exist until the Nets game ended. That's been his M.O. since he was hired. It is an unassailable short-term philosophy. But until the Bulls reach the NBA Finals or win it all, it will be open to legitimate skepticism. He's doing his job. And we're doing ours.