By Jeff Lenchiner

The Chicago Bulls, boasting a 35-16 record, are having a pretty great seeason considering they’ve only enjoyed the services of starting center Joakim Noah for 24 games.

Noah isn’t ready to ball just yet but may be back in action right after NBA All-Star weekend.

According to John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times reports (via blog):

Joakim Noah will return soon for Bulls

Joakim Noah cleared another hurdle in his recovery from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. The 6-11 center has begun participating in half-court contact drills during practice and remains on schedule to return to the active roster immediately following the All-Star break.

“He hasn’t been cleared yet to do the (full-court) scrimmaging part, which will be the next step for him,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “What (trainer) Fred (Tedeschi) has laid out is a plan for progression. (Noah) is cleared for contact and the next phase will be total contact.”

That final phase could come as early as Monday when the Bulls return to the Berto Center for their first practice following the nearly two-week road trip that wraps up tonight against the New Orleans Hornets.

In the games he did play earlier in the season, Noah averaged 14.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.6 blocks per outing.