Injuries continue to pile up for the weary Chicago Bulls, with Jimmy Butler suffering a sprained right ankle in the Bulls' 107-95 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night. Butler had to leave Chesapeake Energy Arena on crutches, although Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he didn't know the severity of the injury, according to CSN Chicago's Aggrey Sam.
Butler recently just returned from a turf toe injury after missing nearly a month of action, although the third-year swingman has admitted the toe is still bothering him. It seems likely he'll miss a bit more time with this latest malady, and with the injuries adding up for Butler, the Bulls should be extremely cautious.
Being cautious is what Luol Deng says he plans to do with his nagging Achilles injury, which flared up once again and forced him to miss the game against Oklahoma City. Deng initially suffered the injury on Nov. 27, but he tried to play through it before sitting out four games.
Deng returned to the lineup Saturday and played in three games, including a 109-94 loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. However, the forward said he wasn't sure he was going to be able to play against the Rockets:
"The last two games, really. Yesterday at shootaround, I wasn't sure if I was going to go. I played and it's just something that I just can't keep trying to ignore. Pretty much what I try to do is play and treat it, and see if I can get rid of it. But it doesn't seem like I can do that. So I had a lot of swelling up today and just made the decision that I've got to try to put it behind me and then start playing," Deng explained.
Deng succumbing to the injury again Thursday came as a bit of a surprise to Thibodeau. According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Thibodeau said Deng never brought up the issue before or during the Rockets game, which is extremely odd given the ailing forward wasn't even sure he was going to play. But odd is just par for the course when it comes to injury management and the Bulls.
Deng is currently using a walking boot and says he wants to be back on the court by the Christmas Day game against the Brooklyn Nets, but it seems to be in his and the Bulls' best interests to perhaps shut him down longer, especially given Thibodeau's penchant to play him big minutes. After Deng first suffered the Achilles injury, he played 137 minutes over the next three games. And upon his initial return this week, he was quickly back to shouldering a heavy load, averaging 37.3 minutes in three games. Meanwhile, rookie Tony Snell pretty much fell out of the rotation despite showing some promise when Deng and Butler missed time before.
Given the circumstances surrounding the Bulls and the latest Derrick Rose injury, there's little reason for Deng to risk a more serious injury himself playing through this issue, especially considering he's in a contract year. Chicago should also want to keep Deng as healthy as possible in case they look to move him before the trade deadline, although ESPN's Brian Windorst reports the team isn't looking to move him.
Deng, Butler and Rose aren't the only Bulls dealing with injuries. Kirk Hinrich missed his fourth straight game with back spasms and remains very limited. Johnson reports there's enough concern about Hinrich's injury that the Bulls may sign another player, with the recently released Mike James a candidate to return.
Taj Gibson is fighting through a hand injury, but he hasn't missed any time and has rebounded after a few poor outings in a row.
The Bulls' skeleton crew will next play against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night.