Jimmy Butler’s return was billed as a team’s best player coming back to save the day, but clearly the Bulls’ All-Star guard isn’t right physically as he recovers from his left knee strain.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg revealed after Monday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks that Butler didn’t participate in the morning shootaround with soreness.
“Jimmy is probably not telling you everything, but he is sore,” Hoiberg said. “He’s out there battling through pain. He didn’t participate this morning because of his body. He has overall soreness and stiffness in his back. Nothing wrong structurally but he just has some overall soreness.”
Butler tried to play it off later after reporters left his locker, but clearly he’s not right.
“My body’s fine, man,” said Butler to CSNChicago.com. “They told me to sit out shootaround. I gotta keep going man. It’s a tough stretch. Gotta keep my body going. If I’m out on the floor, I gotta help us win.”
Butler had a couple explosive plays and was active on defense but struggled through a five for 16 shooting performance, scoring 15 with nine rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes.
“Uhh, I’m alright,” said Butler with a wry smile when asked about his health after the game.\
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
Butler’s high-water scoring mark was 24 points in his initial return game against the Houston Rockets on March 5, and he has struggled mightily with the 3-point shot. In the nine games since his return from seeing Dr. James Andrews about his knee, Butler has shot 3-18 from 3-point range (16.6 percent), and that’s including his 2-7 showing Monday, where he hit a corkscrew triple while Paul Millsap fouled him.
It was Butler who Hoiberg drew up the Bulls’ last good chance at tying the game, despite the percentages.
“It’s tough down the stretch when plays don’t go the way you want them to go,” Butler said. “Then you just gotta do things on the fly. We took good shots, some went in, some didn’t. That’s basketball for you.”
Hoiberg was perhaps vouching for Butler considering Butler’s play hasn’t been up to his standards and Butler’s pride is likely taking a big hit considering the high stakes.
“He’s out there continuing to battle and made that huge four-point play for us late,” Hoiberg said. “He is going to give us everything he has. We’ll see how he’s doing in the morning and hopefully get a good effort.”
When Butler was asked where his body is on an 100 percent scale, he stated the cold, hard truth from his perspective.
“Percentage don’t matter,” Butler said to CSNChicago.com “If I’m on the floor I gotta help us win.”