Jimmy Butler will miss up to six weeks because of a left elbow injury, the team announced. Chicago’s estimated three-to-six-week timetable is lengthier on the back end than the three to four weeks that Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports originally reported earlier today. The regular season ends six weeks from Wednesday. There’s a chance he’s back before three weeks, a source cautions to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, who nonetheless indicates his absence will not be much briefer (Twitter link). The team refers to the malady as an ulnar ligament sprain and small bone impaction injury.
Chicago is carrying 14 players, one fewer than the 15-man limit, but the team abandoned plans to fill that open roster spot once GM Gar Forman announced Friday that the Bulls expected Derrick Rose to miss only four to six weeks with his latest knee injury. The Bulls reportedly had initial conversations with point guards Nate Robinson, Mike James and Jannero Pargo last week while they were thinking about adding to the team to compensate for Rose’s absence.
Taj Gibson is also out until at least mid-March. The Bulls would need another player to go down for an extended period of time before they would qualify for a 16th roster spot via hardship, but given their reluctance to use the 15th spot, it appears unlikely they’d apply for that provision unless under extreme duress. Coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters today in the wake of the news on Butler that the team already has enough help on its roster, as Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com notes (Twitter link). Still, the Bulls, who are limited to giving free agents only the minimum salary, have no pressing tax concerns as they did at this time last year, so tacking additional salary onto the payroll wouldn’t carry extra costs.
The Bulls have reportedly been planning to make Butler, set for restricted free agency this summer, a maximum-salary offer come July. He’s the team’s leading scorer at 20.2 points per game on a league-high 38.9 minutes per contest.