BROOKLYN—The starting backcourt of Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler will return to the Bulls’ lineup for Wednesday’s Christmas Day matinee affair against the Nets at the Barclays Center.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau confirmed that both players would be available for the contest after Butler missed Saturday’s home win over Cleveland with a right-ankle sprain, suffered in the first half of last week’s loss in Oklahoma City, and Hinrich’s five-game absence due to an ailing back, dating back to the team’s last road victory, Dec. 13 in Milwaukee. All-Star small forward Luol Deng, however, will miss his third consecutive game with a left Achilles' injury, a recurrence of the same ailment that caused him to miss four games earlier in the month.
“Definitely,” Butler said when asked if he’d play on the holiday, following Tuesday’s Bulls’ practice at the Berto Center, prior to their departure for New York City. “I felt good. It’s progress, but I think I’m getting better. but I think I’m well enough to go out there and compete.
“I just think I need a new right foot, to tell you the truth. This one’s all used up. But I’m all right. Turf toe, little ankle problem. Nothing I can’t handle, I guess,” continued the swingman, who previously missed nearly a month of action with a right turf-toe injury. “[Butler’s toe is] all right. Bothering me a little bit, but I feel like it’s going to bother me like that for the rest of my career now.”
Thibodeau said there’s a possibility that he utilizes a dual point-guard backcourt featuring both Hinrich and D.J. Augustin, who has played well for the Bulls since being acquired after Toronto waived him in the wake of a trade with Sacramento.
Kirk has done a good job for us since he’s been here other than the injury part of it. DJ has been a very good player in this league prior to getting here. You knew he had the capability. He wasn’t in the rotation this year in Toronto and got short minutes last year in Indiana. But he started for a couple years in this league. You can’t do that without being talented. I think he’s a good fit for us. He can shoot, run the pick and roll. He’s smart. So he fits,” he explained. “I think they can play well together. That was one of the things about bringing Kirk back. His versatility, the ability to play the two, start or come off the bench at the one or two, you can play him with anybody. Having a second guy who can break the defense down off the dribble is a big plus. Every year, Kirk will end up around 38 or 39 percent from 3. I think that shooting is important for our big guys to open up the floor for our big guys.
“I like having two point guards on the floor, so we’ll see how that unfolds.”
The coach was more preoccupied with how the Bulls would defend the Nets’ offensive firepower, albeit lessened with the season-ending foot injury to All-Star center Brook Lopez, Brooklyn’s leading scorer.
“Well, they have so many different weapons and as they’ve gotten some guys back, you’re concerned with Deron Williams off the dribble, Joe Johnson off the dribble. Paul Pierce can hurt you so many different ways with the post, off the dribble, catch-and-shoot, with the pass. [Kevin] Garnett is one of the best screeners in the game, can shoot, can play, can post. So he’s tough.[Mirza] Teletovic can spread you out. [Mason] Plumlee is very, very active. [Andray] Blatche is a load inside. [Shaun] Livingston’s a good player. So they’re a very deep team,” said Thibodeau, who coached future Hall of Famers Garnett and Pierce with the Celtics, the 2008 NBA champions. “Great players always figure it out. So they’ve had a number of injuries to start the season and I saw firsthand in Boston, with Ray Allen, Paul and Kevin. They figured it out right away and they’ve got a number of great players on this team. They took some injuries on early, but they’re a very, very good team.”