OKLAHOMA CITY—The hits just keep on coming for the Bulls.
Already down starting point guard Kirk Hinrich, himself a replacement for Derrick Rose, All-Star small forward Luol Deng sat out of Thursday night’s 107-95 loss to the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena with a reoccurrence of his left Achilles’ injury. On top of that, the Bulls also lost starting shooting guard Jimmy Butler for the evening in the second quarter to a right-ankle injury.
“It was right in front of the bench, but it was all the bodies there, so I didn’t see if he rolled it over. He doesn’t know. I asked him and he said he didn’t know how he did it. The other thing, there were a lot of people wrapped up in that area,” said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who added that he didn’t know the severity of Butler’s injury. “Jimmy, the second half in Houston, I thought he got his rhythm back, so that was a tough blow, him going down.”
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Butler, who was said to have left the arena on crutches prior to the media being able to interview him, was coming off a 20-point game in Wednesday loss in Houston, the closest NBA city to his hometown of Tomball, Tex. That effort was the third-year swingman’s best effort since returning to the Bulls’ lineup after missing nearly a month of action with a right turf-toe injury.
While Butler’s injury occurred during the course of the game, Deng was a surprise scratch after he also played in the loss to the Rockets, his second game since missing four consecutive outings with the same injury.
“The last two games, really. Yesterday at shootaround, I wasn’t sure if I was going to go. I played and it’s just something that I just can’t keep trying to ignore. Pretty much what I try to do is play and treat it, and see if I can get rid of it. But it doesn’t seem like I can do that. So I had a lot of swelling up today and just made the decision that I’ve got to try to put it behind me and then start playing,” Deng explained. “You just never know how your body reacts to it. I want to be back as soon as possible, but I want to be smart about it. I want to shoot for Christmas Day. If I can’t, then the game after that. But definitely, I’ve got to, the next five days or so, give it the attention it deserves and try to be healthy.
“When it first happened, it wasn’t something that just came out of nowhere. It actually happened in a game and I thought I twisted my ankle. Someone stepped on my Achilles’ and it flared up, so I played a few games with it and just to make sure, they did an MRI and it showed there was no tear or anything,” he continued. “The next thing was, ‘How can I put it behind me and play at the same time?’ and I couldn’t do that. Just the last two games, I’ve been favoring that a little bit and I could see that on the tape. I could see that, especially on my defense, not moving the way I want to move. The first game I came back, I was limping the next day. When we played Toronto, I was limping and the same thing today. It’s just an injury that needs rest.
“I’m in a [walking] boot. It’s in the car; they don’t want me walking with it. You’ve got to limit it as much as you can, being on your toes. There’s a bunch of different treatments for it and I’m doing all of it.”
Meanwhile, Hinrich missed his third straight game with what Thibodeau described as “stiffness” in his back.