Just when the Bulls thought they were on their way to some form of normalcy, Jimmy Butler has to sit out a game with soreness in his left knee, it was revealed 90 minutes before Monday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Coach Fred Hoiberg made the announcement in his media availability, which came as a surprise considering Butler’s triumphant return Saturday and no mention of it during the shootaround.
“Jimmy developed some swelling in his knee as the day went on today so he will not play tonight,” Hoiberg said.
Hoiberg didn’t sound especially optimistic about the injury, although people close to the situation believe it’s more of a precautionary measure than something that will linger.
The knee, Hoiberg said, is structurally intact.
“We’ll know more tomorrow,” Hoiberg said after the Bulls’ 100-90 win Monday. “We’ll get him to wear a compression thing, for lack of a better word, and we’ll make a determination tomorrow.”
The Bulls are 32-30, with games against the unbeaten-at-home San Antonio Spurs Thursday and the Miami Heat back in Chicago Friday—the same Heat team that gave the Bulls a whipping in South Beach last week.
“It’s been lke this for years,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. “It makes you mentally strong going through this a lot. We have to keep digging and encouraging the younger guys.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
E’Twaun Moore started in Butler’s place Monday and made some critical baskets throughout, as well as guarding the red-hot Khris Middleton and limiting Middleton to just 7 of 21 shooting.
“When you keep getting punched in the face, you can’t run,” Gibson said. “The guys have been battle tested. It’s one of those games where we got beat up a lot. It’s a testament to E’Twaun and Mike, and guys stepping up and making big shots.”
Butler certainly wouldn’t mind joining the fight if his body allows.
Presumably, Butler could be back Thursday for the game against the Spurs, where he would be matched up against MVP candidate and contemporary Kawhi Leonard.
Butler missed 11 games after straining his left knee in Denver last month, then returned Saturday to score 26 in a win over the Houston Rockets.
“Not exactly sure yet,” said Hoiberg of a return timeline with Butler. “He’ll meet with the team doctor tonight and we’ll kind of go from there. It’s too early to tell how long he’ll be. He may feel much better tomorrow. I imagine some type of test will happen in the next few days.”
Whether that’s an MRI or some other procedure, Hoiberg didn’t sound as if he knew all the details. In the morning, Butler’s back flared up so he didn’t do much in the shootaround, so Hoiberg has a certain level of concern.
“He’s a warrior and will try to play through anything,” Hoiberg said. “He developed swelling in his knee and developed soreness in the knee. It’s too early to tell how long this one will be. He’s optimistic he’ll be back soon and I never doubt him.”