Bulls

No suspension for Dunleavy, Bulls at full strength vs. Cavs

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No suspension for Dunleavy, Bulls at full strength vs. Cavs

Mike Dunleavy was disciplined by the NBA for his actions against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he wasn’t suspended, his chin-check to Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams was merely upgraded to a flagrant 1 foul.

No word on whether his heart was in his throat when he spoke to the league Saturday morning, considering he had incidents with Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo, as the Bucks forward was suspended for the first game of the regular season next season for his tackle on Dunleavy while the Bulls forward was shooting a 3-pointer.

“I’m not surprised, wasn’t expecting anything to happen. Not surprised on my end,” Dunleavy said. "I talked to the NBA about, there's a bunch of stuff that went on last game. It's part of protocol. You gotta talk to the league. I spoke with them.”

He said no hard feelings to Anteokounmpo, who was retaliating against Dunleavy, nailing him in the face during the same sequence.

“I don't think he should be penalized, he was penalized during the game,” Dunleavy said. “Foul, flagrant foul, ejected, free throws. Ejected. Seems fair to me. I don't think it should be anything worse than that.”

[MORE BULLS: Bulls get what they want in matchup with LeBron, Cavaliers]

Dunleavy’s in, which means the Bulls will play with their starting five for the first time against the Cavaliers in Game 1 on Monday. The irony of the Cavaliers being without Kevin Love and the Bulls being at relative full strength wasn’t lost on the Bulls forward.

“Now that I think about the, the irony there, I guess it's flipped,” Dunleavy said. “I guess there's sympathy or empathy? Empathy because we've been there before. They're a really good team, and they lose a great power forward and fill in with a great power forward when he plays it. They'll be really good.”

The “fill-in” isn’t exactly a backup, but LeBron James, the game’s best player who has made a habit of knocking the Bulls out of the postseason, no matter his address. Whenever the Bulls run up against this No. 23, it’s a cruel reminder of what their former No. 23 used to do to other franchises for nearly a decade.

“He's just a go-getter,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. “There's so many different options. You can play him at the four, play him at the five at times, and he's like a point-forward. He brings the ball up and pushes it hard. He really knows how to create for other guys. He makes his teammates better on every team he's been on.”

[MORE BULLS: Bulls storm into matchup with Cavaliers with laugher in Milwaukee]

Gibson could wind up seeing plenty of time on James when James plays at the power forward. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t tip his hand as to what strategy he’d use guarding James, or by proxy the Cavaliers if they go small. Usually, he tries to keep Jimmy Butler on James, but one has to wonder how realistic is it to expect Butler to carry a considerable offensive load while trying to stop the game’s best player.

“We’ll see how it unfolds,” said Thibodeau with a smile. “We can (match up with James). We’ll see.”

Presumably, that’s where Gibson can play a larger role — if he isn’t preoccupied with keeping the active Tristan Thompson away from the offensive glass

“Taj is always important; that’s the one thing you can’t overlook, what he brings to our team,” Thibodeau said. “His defense, his rebounding, he’s probably our best low-post defender. He’s our best guy at moving his feet.”

[SHOP BULLS: Get a Taj Gibson jersey right here]

Thompson grabbed 12 offensive rebounds in the first meeting of the season between these two teams in late October, a Cavaliers win in overtime. It was one of three Cavaliers wins in the four meetings this season, and James didn’t show any signs of slippage against the Bulls, averaging 28.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists on 48-percent shooting this season.

“Yeah, we were so focused on LeBron,” Gibson said of Thompson’s night. “In the playoffs, it only takes that one guy to put you over the top. He's been shining well.”

However the Cavaliers play the lineups, Gibson will be a huge asset, and his defensive versatility could be key in whether the Bulls can steal one of the first two games in Cleveland.

“I love it, I love it,” Gibson said. “I love the fact that Thibs has confidence in me to guard multiple positions. In Milwaukee he basically let me switch one through five, and it's fun having your coach behind you and your teammates behind you, knowing you can guard multiple positions.”

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.