Bulls

Miller: Bears have tremendous opportunity in front of them

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Miller: Bears have tremendous opportunity in front of them

It really comes down to this: The Bears were easily a playoff team in 2011 if Jay Cutler doesnt get injured. They were sitting pretty at 7-3 and poised to play some lackluster teams like Kansas City, Seattle, and Denver.

Please dont say the Bears got "Tebowed" and Denver was a playoff team. Ill scream! Denver stunk offensively and won in spite of Tebow's horrific play -- or should I say were gifted a win with Marion Barbers horrific play.

Cmon Mills, stay focused...stay on point.

Ok, sorry, you just thought youve seen it all in the NFL until that game...um, sorry...focused.

Three more Wins
Where do you see three more wins on the Bears schedule to possibly make the playoffs or squeak in as a Wild Card team?

This of course, is assuming the Packers are a 15-1 team again. The NFC is extremely tight this year, but teams like the Falcons, Saints, 49ers and even the Packers could be taking a step back.

It is difficult to win more than 13 games in an NFL season. Does anyone honestly believe the Packers will go 15-1 again in 2012? Heck no, they will be challenged in their own division to lose more than one game. Where do you see the Packers improvement with their 2012 schedule?

The whole point here is the Bears have a tremendous opportunity ahead of them.

The Bears, without question, have the best defense in the NFC North. Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota have gotten better this offseason on defense, but so did the Bears. I dont want to hear "this defense is aging, and the window is closing." The defense carried the team in 2011, only giving up 21.3 points per game, which was best in the North Division.

Despite being constantly on the field the last six games, the Bears defense played well enough to win games (Kansas City, Denveretc). The Bears defense will be just fine in 2012 and will most likely carry the Bears early in the season while the offense sorts some things out.

But this exercise of finding three more wins is much like the criteria blog I wrote a few weeks ago.

As an exercise, go through each team like I did for the Bears on criteria of building a roster and then also go through each teams NFC North schedule to find three more wins.

Where are they? Can the Bears steal one in Dallas Oct. 1 like theyve done before? Can the Bears now beat Seattle at home without Caleb Hanie leading the charge? Or maybe the Bears sweep the Packers as they have done before with an improved offense.

I dont know about you, but I see three more wins in a few places looking at the Bears' 2012 NFL Schedule.

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

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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. 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.