Previous ArticlesButler and Deng improving as Bulls prepare for Bucks
Short-handed Bulls begin stretch of four games in five days
by Adam Fluck
Posted on Dec 10
Though Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng were out for Tuesday’s matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center, both players are on track to return to action soon.
“It’s still tight,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of Deng’s left calf following the team’s shootaround on Tuesday. “It’s better. Both guys are a lot better. They’re close, but not quite there yet.”
Though he confirmed at shootaround they wouldn’t play against Milwaukee, Thibodeau didn’t rule out either player for Wednesday’s game at New York, Chicago’s second game in a stretch of four in five nights. The Bulls also ended up being without starting center Joakim Noah, who missed the game with a right thigh bruise.
“It happened two or three games ago,” Thibodeau said after the game of Noah. “He has been playing through it. It’s a bruise. He went through the shootaround. He said he did something to it [Tuesday]. He will travel with the team. It’s above the knee. He’s trying to get some swelling down.”
Thibodeau sees Noah as about to hit his stride. He has posted 12.7 points (15-28 FG, .536 FG%), 11.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.67 blocks in his last three outings. Hopefully this latest injury won’t set him back.
“His timing and rhythm are back,” said Thibodeau of Noah at shootaround before the injury came to light. “[Against] Detroit we didn’t have a good rhythm because we made a lot of changes. But I expect him to play well. Defensively, he’s been very good all year. Offensively, he’s just starting to come around.”
When talking to Butler, who is now able to run, jump and work on change of direction as he works through a right toe injury, he acknowledged that he’s likely not quite there yet.
“I don’t know,” said Butler when asked if he might go against the Knicks. “I feel good, though. I still have a little bit of a ways to go, though. We’re definitely moving in the right direction. I’m moving a lot better, jumping off of it better.”
Butler said he’s approximately 80 percent and though he’s itching to get back out on to the court, he has to approach the situation the right way.
“Obviously I want to be out there,” said Butler. “I’m just trying to do what is best for myself and what’s best for this team.”
Thibodeau indicated that whenever Butler is back in Chicago’s lineup, he will be eased back into the swing of things with an eye on his conditioning.
“He’s moving a lot better, so that’s a good sign,” said Thibodeau of Butler. “We’ll see how it unfolds. Whatever he can give us will be a big plus. He adds a lot to our team. It may not be his normal minutes initially, but he’ll get there.”
Butler agreed that his conditioning will be an issue at first.
“There is no conditioning like basketball conditioning,” explained Butler. “You can ride the bike or run in the pool, but it’s different when you’ve got to chase a guy off a screen or run up and down the floor. When I get back to practice, that’s when I’ll start to build my conditioning up.”
Rookie Tony Snell has started for Butler at shooting guard in six of the nine games he’s missed, averaging 10.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 31.8 minutes.
Taj Gibson filled in for Deng on Saturday against Detroit and turned in team highs of 21 points and 10 rebounds. Over his last five games, Gibson has averaged 21.4 points (45-74 FG, .608 FG%), 8.4 rebounds and 1.60 blocks.
The Bulls and Bucks split last year’s season series, 2-2, with each team winning twice on the road. Chicago is 7-3 in its last 10 home games versus Milwaukee.
“We know how dangerous they are and we’ve got to be ready to play,” said Thibodeau of the Bucks, whom the Bulls will also face Friday in Milwaukee. “We’ve got some people out, but we feel good about the guys that are stepping in. The same things go into winning—you’ve got to defend, rebound, take care of the ball, share the ball, play inside-out and take the right shots. If we do those things, we’ll have a chance.”
Joakim Noah (right thigh bruise) is out tonight vs. Bucks. #MILvsCHI
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 10, 2013
Audio—Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau meets the media following shootaround (12.10.2013):
Audio—Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler on his status (12.10.2013):