Bulls: Pau Gasol (knee) likely to return next week


Bulls: Pau Gasol (knee) likely to return next week

Drenched in sweat, Pau Gasol sauntered over to the light media contingent with a smile having just finished his first shooting workout after injuring his knee a couple weeks ago.

“Moving better, feeling better,” Gasol said.

In a season full of injuries for the Bulls, Gasol’s right knee acting up proved virtually no one is exempt from the bug that has ravaged the Bulls like a slow-moving flu. Try as he might, Gasol fought it off as long as he could before the knee swelled heavily enough that he could no longer give it a go.

“I was feeling some discomfort, soreness, pain to a certain degree,” Gasol said. “Trying to play through it, manage it for awhile actually. But after the Miami game the knee gave out and had that reaction.

“The alarms went off and we tried to find out what’s going on and we did, now we’re managing it. Hopefully it won’t get worse and we won’t have an episode like we did after the Miami game.”

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Barring any episode, Gasol could return as early as Monday depending on how he does Sunday and after Monday’s shootaround before the Bulls go for three straight wins against the Sacramento Kings.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg seemed cautiously optimistic about the possibility, although it appears Wednesday against the New York Knicks looks to be the more prudent assumption.

“He’s doing better, it’s his first day on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “Maybe (Monday). I don’t want to rule anything out at this point. He’s going to have a couple good days if we wanted him to play Monday.”

It almost seemed the Bulls had become too reliant on Gasol offensively, especially without Joakim Noah out for the season and Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose having absences due to injury.

The near triple-doubles began piling up as Gasol was used more and more as a hub, which could’ve taken its toll. At age 35, the Bulls have watched Gasol’s minutes as much as possible, given the attrition.

“Couldn’t bend my knee to a certain degree. Then it pinched,” Gasol said. “That was a big part of it. Now the pounding of play with the fluid and the games and the schedule and the minutes, I don’t know. A little bit of everything I guess.”

Assuming he makes it back without a setback, it gives the Bulls yet another chance to establish some consistency.

[MORE: Bulls' consistency, Derrick Rose leads to win over surging Jazz]

“We’re all healthier and in a better situation,” Gasol said. “You might think about resting for a game or two at times but we don’t have that luxury with the situation we’re in, so we have to push it and to the limit.”

Other injury updates

The Bulls will be without E’Twaun Moore for at least the next week, Hoiberg announced at Saturday’s shootaround. Moore strained his left hamstring early in Thursday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets, resulting in him having an MRI.

Whether he gets back fully in seven days remains to be seen but he won’t be able to do anything for at least four games. Moore has averaged in double figures since the All-Star break, scoring 11.1 points per game on 51 percent shooting and 49 percent from 3 in 15 games (12 starts).

“We’ll evaluate him from there,” Hoiberg said. “It’s something he’ll have to stay off of for awhile, try to keep it loose and stretched out. Get it back in a week and see.”

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

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


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. An update from Shams Charania of The Vertical said Butler could return for the postseason.

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.