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.”
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."
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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?”