INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmy Butler sat at his locker with his left shoe on and right foot waiting for the same procedure.
Only he gingerly took his time putting his right Air Jordan shoe on, grimacing at every movement following the Bulls’ 104-92 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Butler, who scored just 16 points on 4-for-10 shooting, didn’t play like his usual aggressive self. And this is from a man who takes an unspoken pride in guarding the best two-way players the NBA has to offer, like Paul George.
George lit up the Bulls for 33 points, eight rebounds and two assists in 38 minutes, and Butler was unable to counter. On one play, Butler darted out in the passing lane for a steal, but the pass came too quick, getting to George. However, Butler got himself back in position to take a charge on George as George drove left, squaring his shoulders and deftly earning the call.
It came with a cost, though, as he got up grimacing in pain while George argued with the officials, picking up a technical foul.
“Man I don’t know what it is, but I’m playing through it,” he told CSNChicago.com in the locker room afterwards.
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When asked if he needs an MRI, Butler replied, “Maybe. I’m not sure.”
Butler initially seemed to injure himself late in last Friday night’s game in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors, but he came out right as it was evident in the last minute or so that the Bulls could do little more than challenge the champs.
Butler was the best player on the floor that night and jokingly dodged any questions about a limp or a bad step. He reticently admitted something’s bothering him, whether it’s a foot sprain or foot strain, either he won’t reveal or he doesn’t yet know.
But with all the hard minutes he has to play, his standing in this team’s hierarchy and his personal pride, he feels an obligation to keep it to himself and hope it’ll improve before it gets worse.
But just as it was evident the Bulls didn’t come ready to win Friday night, it’s just as easy to see from this end.
Jimmy Butler’s not right, and the Bulls can ill-afford him to be anything other than his dynamic self every night.
Friday night was exhibit A.