Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler still hasn’t been able to participate in practice as he recovers from his right turf-toe injury, suffered in the team’s last home game before the “Circus Trip,” a win over Charlotte at the United Center.
“When he starts practicing, he’s getting closer,” said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, adding that he had no timetable for Butler’s return. “I’m just concerned that Jimmy’s been out a long time. So when you miss a lot of time, it’s hard to come back.”
In Butler’s absence, Tony Snell has capably filled in as the Bulls’ starting shooting guard and while it’s premature to even envision the rookie swingman being a fixture in the starting lineup, the team now has more proven depth on the wing, potentially making veteran newcomer Mike Dunleavy Jr. an option to be traded for help at point guard.
Noah’s scoring a work in progress
All-Star center Joakim Noah has been in an offensive funk as of late — minus the second half of last Wednesday’s win at Detroit, the only victory of the “Circus Trip” — but Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t overly concerned.
That’s because Noah is capable of making contributions other than scoring and in fact, his defensive presence, uncanny passing ability and rebounding prowess are more valuable than the number of points he scores, even with Derrick Rose sidelined for the remainder of the season. Still, Thibodeau acknowledged that Noah has had a slow start to the season, partially due to his injury-shortened preseason.
“He missed the entire training camp, so he’ll find his way. He’s got to keep working at it,” the coach explained. “He’s got to do other things, run the floor, set great screens, keep the ball moving, active on the offensive glass. That’s the way he scores and so, when his body’s in motion, he’s usually very, very good.”
Thibodeau’s Pelicans connections
Thibodeau, who turned down New Orleans’ head-coaching vacancy to take the Bulls’ job back in 2010, is well-acquainted with a few members of the Pelicans.
The son of current Clippers head coach and Maywood, Ill., native Doc Rivers happens to be Pelicans backup shooting guard Austin Rivers. Thibodeau worked under the elder Rivers in Boston and got to know his son, a second-year player, when the then-teenager attended Celtics practices as a highly-touted high-school recruit.
“Great kid, very talented,” Thibodeau said. “I think he’s learning the league, but he’s going to be very good.”
Thibodeau is also well-acquainted with Pelicans head coach Monty Williams, who also was named an assistant for USA Basketball last summer. Williams played for New York and San Antonio during his playing days, but never when Thibodeau was an assistant coach in either city.
“[Williams is] not only a great coach, a great guy and he’s had to deal with his share of injuries down there. But he had a great career as a player, did a great job as an assistant. He’s done a great job as a head coach. But he’s very well. He’s prepared himself well for this opportunity,” Thibodeau said. “We have a lot of mutual friends, though. We always just missed each other. [Former Knicks point guard] Charlie Ward, Jeff Van Gundy, Doc. He’s close with all those guys, so that’s how I really got to know him.”
Thibodeau also got to know injured Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, when the Chicagoan participated in USA Basketball’s Select Team mini-camp this past July.