Jimmy Butler practices, questionable for Bulls-Suns

Jimmy Butler practices, questionable for Bulls-Suns

Drenched in sweat as opposed to being in a sweat suit, Jimmy Butler went through Thursday’s practice after missing three games with a right heel contusion — a long and spirited practice that went longer than the usual hourlong sessions they often have.

Still listed as questionable for Friday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, it was likely he wouldn’t have been able to help much in the trashing laid down by the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night.

He still isn’t supremely confident in his ability to plant and cut just yet, but he’s feeling better than before.

“A little guarded but that’s okay,” Butler said following the team’s practice at the Warriors’ practice facility in Oakland. “I don’t want to do too much on one leg over the other. Hopefully, I’ll respond. I was able to move pretty well out there. I think I’m in pretty decent conditioning shape, still.”

Going on the exercise bike the past few days, Butler’s on the mend while seemingly the rest of the roster is on the M*A*S*H unit, with Dwyane Wade battling the illness that caught Butler and others a couple weeks ago, along with Paul Zipser and Isaiah Canaan sustaining injuries against the Warriors.

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“He looked great today,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “As the practice went on, he loosened up more and more. It was good to see him back on the floor with guys. A very energetic practice, a lot of that had to do with Jimmy.”

All, including Butler, are officially listed as questionable on the Bulls’ injury report. Butler has to battle the balance between going out there because the Bulls need him and taking care of himself and his health as he goes into the All-Star break.

The last time Butler had a right heel contusion, he didn’t play as well for a handful of games but still played heavy minutes in the first month of last season.

This time, he’s altering his approach ever-so-slightly.

“You gotta be careful,” Butler said. “I hope I’m ready to go, I’m tired of missing games. I wanna go out there and compete.”

While the Bulls have generally played well in his absence, they’ve still missed his playmaking and defense on top perimeter guys, notably their loss to Houston last Friday when James Harden ran wild for 40-plus.

He hopes his presence would make the game easier for those thrust into roles they aren’t quite ready for.

“I wanna be out there. I would hope I would make a lot of guys’ jobs easier,” Butler said. “Then everything’s back to normal. Ball in my hands, everybody back to somewhat of the same role.”

Zach LaVine improving his chances for Eastern Conference All-Star spot

Zach LaVine improving his chances for Eastern Conference All-Star spot

Zach LaVine let it be known the moment the NBA announced the All-Star game was coming to Chicago in 2020 that he would love to represent the Bulls in the Sunday night main event.

LaVine’s chances looked pretty slim when both he and the team got out of the gates slowly this season. LaVine averaged 20.2 points as the Bulls finished October with a 1-4 record, and he shot just 42.6% from the field in a 5-10 November.

But since that time, LaVine has picked up his offensive output, averaging 25.1 points in December and 30 points so far in January. He’s also had two of the best fourth-quarter performances of the season, carrying the Bulls to come-from-behind wins at Charlotte and vs. Cleveland at the United Center last Saturday.

In that road game against the Hornets, LaVine scored a career-high 49 points, making 13 of his 17 attempts from 3-point range, including the game-winner at the buzzer. LaVine finished one shy of the NBA record of 14 3-point makes, set by Klay Thompson against the Bulls last season.

Against the Cavaliers, LaVine scored 21 of his 42 points in the 4th quarter to help the home team erase a 15-point deficit heading into the final 12 minutes. Plus, he outdueled All-Star reserve candidate Bradley Beal earlier this month, outscoring the Wizards’ guard 30-23 in a 115-106 Bulls win.

LaVine faces a lot of competition for the four reserve spots that are potentially available for guards (three frontcourt, two backcourt, and two wild card players will be selected by conference coaches), and it could come down to whether the coaches put more emphasis on win-loss record or individual statistics. 

If Atlanta’s Trae Young and Boston’s Kemba Walker get the starting spots, LaVine will be competing with the likes of Beal, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie, Detroit’s Derrick Rose, Boston’s Jaylen Brown and Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon for anywhere between two and four spots, depending on how the wild card selections fall.

Given the recent history of coaches’ votes, you can expect Simmons and Lowry to get the nod for the two reserve backcourt spots, with LaVine and Beal the top candidates for one or both wild card selections. Plus, there’s always the chance NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will have to replace one of the 12 Eastern Conference All-Stars because of injury, with LaVine the likely top choice to represent the home city.

Zach has told reporters he’s more likely to do the Slam Dunk contest Saturday night if he’s selected for the Eastern Conference squad, so a lot could be riding on the announcement of All-Star reserves on January 30th.

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Who makes it to the All-Star Game?


Bulls Talk Podcast: Who makes it to the All-Star Game?

The NBA All-Star Game voting is almost up and the biggest question is if Zach Lavine make the cut. Jason Goff is joined by Will Perdue, and Kendall Gill as they give their official East and West All-Stars for this season.

(2:05) - If Zach Lavine makes the ASG, who doesn't go?

(3:54) - Eastern Conference selections

(8:12) - Debate on if Trae Young should go to the ASG

(13:48) - Does the League have influence on who makes the ASG?

(15:38) - Should Lavine use Dunk Contest as leverage for the ASG?

(18:23) - How Chicago will react to having All-Star Weekend

(19:15) - Chance that Derrick Rose will make the ASG

(20:51) - Western Conference selections

(22:26) - Fan voting needs to be gone

Listen to the episode here or in the embedded player below.

Bulls Talk Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.