CHICAGO (AP) Bulls center Joakim Noah returned from a shoulder injury on Monday night against Washington, providing another option for coach Fred Hoiberg heading into a busy stretch.
Noah sprained his left shoulder in the third quarter of a 105-102 loss to Brooklyn on Dec. 21. The 6-foot-11 reserve missed nine straight games before he entered with 4:33 left in the first quarter against the Wizards, drawing a big cheer from the crowd at the United Center.
Noah went 0 for 7 from the field in a little under 19 minutes, but also had nine rebounds, four assists and a steal in Chicago's 114-100 loss.
''He missed nine games. He will have some rust, but I thought he showed good energy,'' Hoiberg said.
Noah was blocked from behind by John Wall with 2:19 left in the third quarter, and then grabbed his shoulder after he hit the ground. He stayed in the game and said afterward he was fine.
The matchup with Washington was the opener of a stretch of four games in five nights for Chicago. The Bulls visit Milwaukee on Tuesday night.
Rookie Bobby Portis played increased minutes while Noah was out and is expected to remain in the rotation, making for a logjam inside along with Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic. Noah, the 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is averaging 4.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 26 games this season.
How the Bulls use their big men will depend a lot on the flow of the game, Hoiberg said.
''We'll see how it's going and make the decision based on that,'' he said. ''You always try and communicate with your guys, and you know with Jo coming back, that's certainly going to add a new piece to our team.''