Bulls

Bulls: Jimmy Butler to play against Nuggets

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Bulls: Jimmy Butler to play against Nuggets

DENVER — Beat up as he may be, Jimmy Butler will give it a go against the Denver Nuggets after missing Wednesday’s game in Sacramento with left knee tendinitis.

The Bulls’ leading scorer went through morning shootaround after going through treatments on the muscles surrounding his left knee over the last three days. He bumped knees in Salt Lake City during the Bulls’ overtime loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday.

Considering Pau Gasol is questionable after getting hit on the left hand late in the Bulls’ win over the Kings and Mike Dunleavy is still probably a game away from returning, Butler probably feels the responsibility to get out there if his body allows.

“My knee is feeling good,” Butler said. “I guess we’ll find out whenever I go out there and really warm up before the game. I went through shootaround but I didn’t do too much. My body warmed up like I needed to be but I think I’ll be fine for tonight.”

[MORE BULLS: Jimmy Butler's hopes for an 82-game season end with knee injury]

Watching the Bulls’ ball movement from the bench, where they tallied 26 assists on 40 field goals, can give a player a certain perspective they don’t have on the floor.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg praised the ball movement, which some chose to interpret as a shot toward Butler considering he’s most effective in isolation.

“You can always learn. I watch the games after we play them win or loss to see what I could do better anyways but, yeah, when you’re sitting down there and you’re watching it in person and you’re not out there you can definitely see a difference for the better for me,” Butler said. “So, yeah, there are things I can do better to help this team win.”

And there also has to be give-and-take to maximize Butler and Derrick Rose, the team’s two best players, being better in isolation.

“If you have early isos and you go to work quickly, as opposed to hold, hold, hold, and let them key in on you, it’s more effective, so even in our iso actions where we try and get a quick strike out of it, again we’re better at that,” Hoiberg said. “Again, in a post ... Jimmy’s numbers are very good in the post. We play obviously off of Pau in the post, where there’s iso situations. And if you space it right and you draw two players, good things happen."

[MORE BULLS: Shorthanded Bulls get past Kings on Moore's career night]

Butler leads the league in minutes and only Kemba Walker and James Harden have more 40-minute games under their belts than him, so there’s a school of thought that he’s worn down nearly 50 games into the season and could probably use the rest more than anything.

But he won’t hear any of that, and doesn’t like operating under any minutes restrictions, so if he goes, he’ll likely play close to his usual 38-minute average against the Nuggets, the first of a back-to-back that concludes in Minneapolis Saturday night.

“Your body is going to be worn down if you play,” Butler said. “It’s hard with as many minutes as I’ve played but that’s what the offseason is for is to break your body down so you can handle it whenever you’re tired but you know whenever you have something that you can barely move with that’s a different story.”

Butler’s minutes was a huge narrative last year, especially under Tom Thibodeau and his usage of players, but not much has been said this season with Hoiberg. Part of it likely revolves around Butler being considered a bonafide star, and one could also say Hoiberg is still learning on the job as a first-year coach.

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“I don’t get into last year and this year but I know I think both of the coaches really trust me to be out there on the floor a lot of the time and that’s respect for me,” Butler said. “I really like pride myself upon that. They can’t take me off the floor because they like what I bring whenever I’m out there.

“I’ve never complained about that, I’ve always wanted to play at the highest level at that. So why can’t I be out there for as many minutes as I am?”

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

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USA TODAY

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

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USA TODAY

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

Jimmy Butler won't be facing the Bulls a second time this season.

Butler suffered a non-contact knee injury on Friday night in Houston. The initial X-ray only revealed he didn't have any broken bones, but the MRI had to wait until Saturday.

The Timberwolves announced that the MRI revealed a meniscus injury in Butler's right knee. There is not yet word on how long the All-Star guard will be out of action, but if it wasn't already assumed that he wouldn't play against the Bulls, it's now certain.

Avoiding the ACL tear means avoiding the worse case scenario, but this is likely still going to cause Butler to miss a significant amount of time with about a quarter of the regular season remaining.

The Bulls take on the Timberwolves on Saturday night. Butler dropped 38 points at the United Center in his return to Chicago exactly two weeks ago, but the Bulls won 114-113.

Butler posted on Instagram a reaction to the injury.

Saturday's game will be the returns of Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn to Minnesota after they went the other direction in the Butler trade on draft night last June.