Things went from scary to slight relief to now, a different stage with Jimmy Butler as the Bulls’ shooting guard will miss the next three to four weeks with a left knee strain, as released by the team Tuesday.
Butler’s hard spill in Denver resulted in a left knee strain, which will cost him an appearance in the All-Star Game in Toronto, although teammate Pau Gasol will take his place in the midseason classic.
According to Derrick Rose, Butler said he heard something pop in his knee and from Rose’s experience with knee injuries it gave him pause. But apparently the Bulls doctors see things a bit differently, with Butler’s prognosis making it sound more like a tear than a strain as the team is calling it.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time as far as the team is concerned, mired in a stretch that has seen them lose 12 of 17 in the last 30 days and teetering toward the end of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Butler was having a career year after a career year last year, averaging 22.4 points, 4.3 assists and 5.2 rebounds in a league-leading 37.9 minutes per game. In his stead, the Bulls will depend on players who haven’t taken advantage of their opportunities thus far like Doug McDermott and Tony Snell, as Mike Dunleavy has returned from his season-long back injury.
They’ll also have to depend more on Rose, who’s been playing his best ball this year lately, and Gasol, who has averaged 18.1 points and 11.2 rebounds since the start of January.
With the All-Star break coming up, it gives Butler more time to rest and rehab without missing as many games. If he misses three weeks, he could return for the second of a back-to-back in Orlando after a game against the Miami Heat on March 2, which would have Butler missing eight more games including Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks.
If he misses four weeks, he could return March 8 against the San Antonio Spurs on a Thursday night, the front of a road-home back-to-back concluding back in Chicago against the Heat.
But it leaves the Bulls in a tough position, where they must try to hold it together before he returns and hope to put on a strong push to maintain positioning for the postseason.