For years, the Chicago Bulls have had a team talented enough to contend for an NBA title, if only everyone could stay healthy.

Well, the Bulls have been hit with a devastating injury again, and this time it’s to center Joakim Noah, who dislocated his left shoulder during the second quarter of Friday’s loss to the Mavericks. MRI results from Saturday indicated a need for surgery to repair the shoulder. Noah will miss four to six months, the Bulls announced Saturday evening.

Noah missed nine games earlier this season after dislocating the same shoulder on December 21.

The Bulls currently stand 23-16, third in the Eastern Conference. Noah is the team’s second-leading rebounder (8.8 boards a game) despite being limited to 21.9 minutes per game.

Losing Noah, the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year, weakens the Bulls’ frontcourt, which had been one of the team’s strengths. Noah’s absence will likely mean increased playing time for Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic and an even larger role for Pau Gasol.

After Friday’s game, Derrick Rose called Noah’s injury “devastating,” according to the Chicago Tribune, and Gibson elaborated further.

“I’m frustrated for him,” Taj Gibson said. “He felt so good coming into this game. We don’t know the severity of it but the look on his face was just crazy. He had put so much work in to get back to the team.

“It just makes my stomach sick. You’ve been going to war with this guy all kind of different circumstances over eight years, a guy you pride yourself with, especially with practice and he’s one of the emotional leaders, it hits you in the heart. Seeing him on that table like that, I kind of got flashbacks to when Derrick got hurt. You don’t want to see your man go down like that. It’s frustrating.”

Last week, Noah expressed dissatisfaction with his off-the-bench role this season, prompting some trade speculation. Friday’s injury means not only will the Bulls be without Noah, they also won’t be able to explore trade options for him.

Hopefully Noah recovers fully, because the Noah-Rose-Butler Bulls deserve a healthy shot at a playoff run. That said, even if Noah recovers at the near end of the timetable — four months instead of five or six — the Bulls will probably need to make the Eastern Conference Finals in order for him to play again this season in a Chicago uniform.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.