Bulls

Fred Hoiberg says Jimmy Butler's knee is structurally intact

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Fred Hoiberg says Jimmy Butler's knee is structurally intact

Just when the Bulls thought they were on their way to some form of normalcy, Jimmy Butler has to sit out a game with soreness in his left knee, it was revealed 90 minutes before Monday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Coach Fred Hoiberg made the announcement in his media availability, which came as a surprise considering Butler’s triumphant return Saturday and no mention of it during the shootaround.

“Jimmy developed some swelling in his knee as the day went on today so he will not play tonight,” Hoiberg said.

Hoiberg didn’t sound especially optimistic about the injury, although people close to the situation believe it’s more of a precautionary measure than something that will linger.

The knee, Hoiberg said, is structurally intact.

“We’ll know more tomorrow,” Hoiberg said after the Bulls’ 100-90 win Monday. “We’ll get him to wear a compression thing, for lack of a better word, and we’ll make a determination tomorrow.”

The Bulls are 32-30, with games against the unbeaten-at-home San Antonio Spurs Thursday and the Miami Heat back in Chicago Friday—the same Heat team that gave the Bulls a whipping in South Beach last week.

“It’s been lke this for years,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. “It makes you mentally strong going through this a lot. We have to keep digging and encouraging the younger guys.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

E’Twaun Moore started in Butler’s place Monday and made some critical baskets throughout, as well as guarding the red-hot Khris Middleton and limiting Middleton to just 7 of 21 shooting.

“When you keep getting punched in the face, you can’t run,” Gibson said. “The guys have been battle tested. It’s one of those games where we got beat up a lot. It’s a testament to E’Twaun and Mike, and guys stepping up and making big shots.”

Butler certainly wouldn’t mind joining the fight if his body allows.

Presumably, Butler could be back Thursday for the game against the Spurs, where he would be matched up against MVP candidate and contemporary Kawhi Leonard.

Butler missed 11 games after straining his left knee in Denver last month, then returned Saturday to score 26 in a win over the Houston Rockets.

“Not exactly sure yet,” said Hoiberg of a return timeline with Butler. “He’ll meet with the team doctor tonight and we’ll kind of go from there. It’s too early to tell how long he’ll be. He may feel much better tomorrow. I imagine some type of test will happen in the next few days.”

Whether that’s an MRI or some other procedure, Hoiberg didn’t sound as if he knew all the details. In the morning, Butler’s back flared up so he didn’t do much in the shootaround, so Hoiberg has a certain level of concern.

“He’s a warrior and will try to play through anything,” Hoiberg said. “He developed swelling in his knee and developed soreness in the knee. It’s too early to tell how long this one will be. He’s optimistic he’ll be back soon and I never doubt him.”

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

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AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

David Schuster, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Dave Wannstedt joins the panel to discuss the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots? Was it a moral victory? Is Matt Nagy crazy to say Mitch Trubisky didn’t play that bad?

13:00- Joe Girardi pulls his name out of the Reds managerial search and Jon Heyman reports that industry sources believe he might wait to see if there’s an opening in Chicago. What are the chances that he replaces Joe Maddon?

14:30- Adam Amin joins Kap to preview the Bulls/Mavericks game and discuss the lack of defense in the NBA.