DEERFIELD, Ill.—Jimmy Butler was in good spirits, wearing brightly-colored sneakers and shooting—one long-distance shot off one foot, on a basket on the other end of the floor, went in, then hit a news camera while Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was addressing the media—Friday at the Berto Center.
The third-year swingman is still sidelined, but is making progress in his recovery from a right turf-toe injury, suffered in the second half of the Bulls’ last home game before the “Circus Trip,” a win over Charlotte at the United Center. The Bulls didn’t do much at Wednesday’s practice other than shoot, walk through some offensive sets and watch film, but Butler was just happy to be a participant.
“I’m at the Berto right now, feeling good,” he quipped, when asked where he was, physically. “I get to be around my guys. I missed them. That road trip, I got to watch them on TV, but it’s different or whatever. I get to see their faces. I had a huge smile on my face this morning, just because I got to see them.”
Butler will travel to Cleveland with the team for Saturday night’s road game against the Cavaliers, but he while he is “getting closer,” according to Thibodeau, the return of the team’s starting shooting guard isn’t imminent.
“He didn’t do a whole lot. His rehab, some shooting. He’s coming along, but he’s still not there,” Thibodeau said. “He says he’s feeling a lot better. he hasn’t done anything on the court, so he has to practice first. So the swelling’s down, but he’s still not close to 100 percent. But he’s much improved, so we feel good about his improvement. We’ll see where he is tomorrow and the next few days.”
Butler described his current health status, but couldn’t put a timetable on when he’d be back in the lineup.
“I’m not for sure. I know I can put on my shoe. I can shoot, I can move a little bit. I can’t push off of it as much or jump, but it’s a progress thing. It’s definitely getting better,” he said. “Everybody’s telling me to be cautious, but I’m doing what I’m normally doing, getting ready to come back. Until then, just keep rehabbing, just keeping working and get to where you can, and get to where you were.
“I want to come back as soon as possible, but I don’t know. It just all depends on how my toe is going to take everything I’m doing. If that’s shooting; I’m lifting, pushing off on it, whatever that may be. But I feel like [the Bulls’ training staff], they all know what I’m doing to get me back in a timely manner,” continued Butler, who is out of the walking boot he wore initially. “I’m not the doctor. I can only go by what they tell me and when they speak in the medical terms of all the legal names that’s in the textbooks, I don’t know. But turf toe, messed up some ligaments and some muscles, I guess. I’m not 100 percent sure. But I just saw that it really hurt, it’s very swollen and that’s what the treatment’s for, to get it back to normal.”
Butler, who moved gingerly, relying heavily on his left foot and without much lift on his jumper, said he has had a chance to talk to his backcourt partner, Derrick Rose, since the point guard returned to Chicago for season-ending knee surgery.
“I talked to him a little bit. I know how he feels, so he doesn’t want to talk about it too much, so I just want to be more of a friend, teammate, other than a fan and asking him how he’s feeling. Just trying to make sure he’s good, how’s his family, how’s his son, just stuff like that,” he said. “It was tough. Another knee injury, that’s unfortunate. I couldn’t take watching it. It was just so hard, knowing that’s another year gone for that guy. As much as he did to come back, he’s going to do it all over again. Once again, that’s who he is. He’s going to come back the same way, with the same mentality.”
At the same time, Butler believes that the Bulls will still remain competitive, even without Rose in the lineup.
“We definitely will miss Derrick, but I feel like we’re still the Chicago Bulls and we still have a job to do. Derrick’s a great player, but each and every one of the guys on this roster are NBA players, so you’re here for a reason. You have to be talented and you can’t count anybody out in this league. I think if you ask every player in this league, they’ll tell you the same thing. As long as we go out there and play hard, I feel like we can win a lot of games,” he explained. ““Whenever you hear it every day from the coaching staff and upstairs that we can do something special, that we can win these games, then you start to buy into it, you know what I mean? If you hear it so much, we already know that we can do it, but that’s just reassuring.”
“I want to get back, if Derrick was with them or without them. I don’t like the fact that he’s not; don’t get me wrong. I just want to be out there with my guys. That’s what I love to do. I love to play basketball, I love this team and when I’m not out there with them—when I can’t even be with them on the road—it just messes me up because we spend so much time together and the close-knit group of guys that we have,” Butler added. “When I’m not there, I just kind of feel like I’m not part of the team, so to speak. Not in a bad way, but I just want to feel that emotion, even if’s being on the bench. I feel like that’s just who I am. I love this game, I love this team, so I just want to be around them as much as possible.”