The Bulls will get their best player back Saturday, as Jimmy Butler will return to the team’s lineup against the Houston Rockets, in a game that could see the Bulls fall below the .500 mark with a loss.
Butler has missed the last 11 games with a left knee strain, and will officially practice with the team tomorrow, where coach Fred Hoiberg will likely be cautiously optimistic about Butler’s status.
But make no mistake: He’ll be back and the Bulls need every bit of what he can offer, considering the way they’ve fallen apart without him, going 3-8, including the game in which he strained his left knee, in Denver on Feb. 18.
Apparently he won’t be under any minutes restriction as he takes the floor in a nationally-televised game, where he’ll be head-up against one of the league’s best shooting guards, 2014-15 MVP runner-up James Harden. He's been in Chicago for the last several days going through strenuous workouts and has improved to the point where he should look like himself aside from conditioning and rust.
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
Butler is averaging 22.4 points, 4.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds in another career year, but even with his stellar performances, the team has struggled with him in the lineup and most certainly in his absence.
Giving up 100 points or more in every game since Jan. 31 is a huge bone of contention, as Butler is the team’s best perimeter defender.
The Bulls have been without Joakim Noah for awhile after shoulder surgery ended his season, then the Bulls lost Butler, who initially bumped knees in Salt Lake City before his knee appeared to give out upon takeoff on a late second-quarter drive in Denver.
Nikola Mirotic underwent two medical procedures right before the All-Star break, as the Bulls hope he’s two weeks away from returning, and Taj Gibson injured his right hamstring in Miami two days ago, being listed as day-to-day.
With this team in a tailspin, having gone just 8-18 since Jan. 8, they’ll welcome Butler back with open arms.