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Bulls’ leading scorer Jimmy Butler could to return to lineup Monday

Los Angeles Lakers vs Chicago Bulls

Basketball: Closeup of Chicago Bulls Jimmy Butler (21) before game vs Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Los Angeles, CA 1/29/2015 CREDIT: John W. McDonough (Photo by John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X159229 TK1 )

Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

After missing three weeks with an elbow injury, Jimmy Butler could play for the Bulls Monday night vs. Charlotte.

Of course, the Bulls and coach Tom Thibodeau are putting all kinds of qualifiers on that in the run-up to the game, saying he is questionable. That said, he’s seemed close to playing all day. Here is Thibodeau at shootaround, via Vincent Goodwill of

“We’ll see when he warms up tonight,” Thibodeau said. “But it looks like it could be a go.”

Later he would warm up and play unless there was a setback.

Joakim Noah is out for the Bulls Monday with “general soreness.”

Butler is going to play. For the first time since March 1, when he injured his elbow trying to get around a screen against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Butler’s return comes just as the Bulls are trying to overtake Toronto for the third seed in the East (Chicago is half a game back). Butler is the Bulls leading scorer at 20.2 points a game, plus he is their best perimeter defender.

“He’s probably our best two-way player,” Thibodeau said. “Anytime you get a guy like that back, it helps in all areas. It adds to the depth. It’s good.”

The Bulls got Taj Gibson back from injury last week and now Butler this week. Once Derrick Rose returns — there still is no official word on when that happens — the Bulls should have their regular rotation back for the playoffs.

How far that can take them remains to be seen, but it’s all got to start with health in Chicago, so this is key.