Bulls

Bulls: Jimmy Butler will return Saturday vs. Rockets

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Bulls: Jimmy Butler will return Saturday vs. Rockets

The Bulls will get their best player back Saturday, as Jimmy Butler will return to the team’s lineup against the Houston Rockets, in a game that could see the Bulls fall below the .500 mark with a loss.

Butler has missed the last 11 games with a left knee strain, and will officially practice with the team tomorrow, where coach Fred Hoiberg will likely be cautiously optimistic about Butler’s status.

But make no mistake: He’ll be back and the Bulls need every bit of what he can offer, considering the way they’ve fallen apart without him, going 3-8, including the game in which he strained his left knee, in Denver on Feb. 18.

Apparently he won’t be under any minutes restriction as he takes the floor in a nationally-televised game, where he’ll be head-up against one of the league’s best shooting guards, 2014-15 MVP runner-up James Harden. He's been in Chicago for the last several days going through strenuous workouts and has improved to the point where he should look like himself aside from conditioning and rust.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Butler is averaging 22.4 points, 4.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds in another career year, but even with his stellar performances, the team has struggled with him in the lineup and most certainly in his absence.

Giving up 100 points or more in every game since Jan. 31 is a huge bone of contention, as Butler is the team’s best perimeter defender.

The Bulls have been without Joakim Noah for awhile after shoulder surgery ended his season, then the Bulls lost Butler, who initially bumped knees in Salt Lake City before his knee appeared to give out upon takeoff on a late second-quarter drive in Denver.

Nikola Mirotic underwent two medical procedures right before the All-Star break, as the Bulls hope he’s two weeks away from returning, and Taj Gibson injured his right hamstring in Miami two days ago, being listed as day-to-day.

With this team in a tailspin, having gone just 8-18 since Jan. 8, they’ll welcome Butler back with open arms.

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

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AP

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

The Bulls couldn't have known it at the time, but when LeBron James blocked a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, it was the closest those Bulls would ever get to the promised land.

It happened on May 26, 2011, seven long, long, long years ago today.

The game was an ugly one and certainly a fourth quarter the Bulls would love to have back. They took a 12-point lead on a Ronnie Brewer 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining. The Heat closed the game on a 19-4 run, with James' emphatic block on Rose the lasting image of the series.

James finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, and added six assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes.

Rose went just 9-for-29, finishing the series shooting 35 percent from the field after being named league MVP over James.

It's probably unfair to say James and James alone shut the Bulls' championship window. Rose's ACL tear the following postseason realistically was the biggest culprit. But these Bulls had won 62 games, had homecourt advantage, had the MVP, the Coach of the Year and all the momentum. And still they couldn't get it done against James.

That win also sent James to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. He's been there every year since, though that could change as he faces the Celtics on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.