Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler will be out three to four weeks with a strained left knee, the team announced via press release. The ailment has forced Butler to miss Chicago’s last two games. The Bulls are already without Joakim Noah, who’s out for the season, and Nikola Mirotic, who’s reportedly set to return after the All-Star break, but they don’t have quite enough of an injury issue to qualify for a 16th roster spot via hardship.
Butler, fresh off re-signing with Chicago on a five-year, $92.34MM deal, is the team’s leading scorer by a wide margin at 22.4 points per game, though Derrick Rose, third in scoring on the team at 15.9 points a night, takes nearly as many shots. Regardless, the loss of Butler is a significant blow to the Bulls, who’ve lost five of six games to fall to seventh place in the Eastern Conference, just a game and a half up on the ninth-place Hornets in the race for the postseason.
The injury isn’t as troublesome as it might otherwise be, since the All-Star break starts later this week. It also comes just nine days in advance of the February 18th trade deadline. The Bulls reportedly sought an upgrade on the wing as they considered trades earlier this season, though that was before injuries to Noah and Mirotic that depleted a frontcourt that had been an area of strength. Also, Mike Dunleavy, the team’s starting small forward, made his season debut this week after recovering from a lingering back injury.