Frequent CSTB readers are already aware the matter of Joakim Noah’s playing time is a somewhat sore subject between Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro and his boss, John Paxson. What you possibly didn’t know prior to today is that Paxson and Del Negro have been accused of coming to blows over the dispute, with one version alleging the GM tried to strangle his subordinate with the latter’s tie. ESPN Chicago’s Melissa Isaacson contradicts the Yahoo Sports report, giving an audience to an unnamed source’s claim Del Negro was the aggressor…and he’s been asking for a beating for some time.

The relationship between Paxson and Del Negro has been deteriorating for some time and reached a head over the use of Noah, who has been hurting since mid-January. Del Negro, the source said, directly defied orders by Paxson and Forman in playing Noah seven minutes longer than ordered to against the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 26 when Noah was “clearly hurting,” according to the source.

“[Del Negro] put his own interest ahead of the Bulls,” the source said.

Noah missed the next 10 games, all Bulls losses.

The source said when Noah was brought back a second time after the injury, it was made even more clear to Del Negro what Noah’s time limit was, but he was allowed to save a minute or two for close games or play Noah for one possession at the end if he had already reached his time limit and the game was close. Those were the only exceptions. And Del Negro looked for “loopholes,” the source said.

The Bulls need to defeat Charlotte tonight (along with requiring some help from the Knicks) in order to qualify as the no. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, but even if they succeed and win the right to become the Cavs’ sacrificial lambs in round 2,