Jimmy Butler wants to play 82 games this season and he’ll be damned if it doesn’t happen, even if his body won’t cooperate.
He woke up Thursday morning with his left thigh locked up after the Bulls’ exhilarating overtime win over the Indiana Pacers, a game that wouldn’t have been won without his heroics down the stretch.
It was bad enough he needed help to get out of bed to make it to the Bulls practice facility, and he was actually listed on the team injury report, although he says he was in no danger of actually missing time.
“It’s not that serious,” Butler told CSNChicago.com after the Bulls’ 108-81 win over the New York Knicks Friday night. “If I can go, I’ll go. I don’t know where it was from, I just woke up in a little bit of pain.”
“I woke up the next morning, feeling it for real. Went and got some treatment, keep it heated, keep it moving, I’ll be alright.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
As long as he stays active, i.e., on the floor and not the bench, he believes the pain is manageable. Butler played 34 minutes Friday, slightly down from his 37.4 minute per game average.
He scored 23 points with six assists and four rebounds, so it doesn’t appear to affect his play thus far. He had a foot injury that he suffered in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors in mid-November that he initially didn’t want to disclose but he was receiving treatment on it.
It prompted Butler to remark how he’s got a bet with one of his trainers that he’ll suit up for every game this season, and he intends to win the wager.
“The foot’s good. It’s great. But it nags,” he said. “I got a bet with (trainer) Travelle Gaines that I’ll play all 82 games. When I’m locked up I gotta try to get out there.”
It’s enough of a concern that Butler was added to the team’s growing injury report, as the Bulls are already without Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose has missed the last two games with right hamstring soreness.
“Not serious. It’s something we gotta manage,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Jimmy always wants to practice, he wants the reps, he feels it’s great for his timing.”
Although he’s been effective despite the injury, he’s felt it pushing off on drives to the basket, which could limit his explosiveness if it persists.
“Without a doubt, I definitely felt it,” Butler said. "(But) I felt like I needed to play. My team really needed me out there and I wanted to play. I wanted to play the game, to give us a decent chance of winning when I’m on the floor.”
Butler has been a stabilizing force in two wins where the bench has taken over the fourth quarter, their comeback win over the Toronto Raptors and Friday’s win where the defense stiffened to hold the Knicks to eight points in the last 12 minutes.
He feels his presence alone can aid while other teammates are recovering from more serious ailments.
“Jimmy, he’s gonna go out there and give it everything he’s got,” Hoiberg said. “He’s gonna come in and get his treatments. Everybody’s gotta come in and get their bodies worked on. We got a big stretch coming up, so it’s important for everybody to get their body right.”