Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler will miss three-to-four weeks with a strained left knee, the team announced Tuesday. The NBA announced soon after that Bulls big man Pau Gasol will take Butler's place in the All-Star Game.
Butler, the Bulls' leading scorer at 22.4 points per game, suffered the injury on a drive to the basket in the second quarter of a loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday. Butler stayed in the game to shoot his two free throws, but he had to be taken off the floor in a wheelchair. The 26-year-old had just returned to the lineup after missing last Wednesday's game with a sore left knee following a 47-minute outing on Feb. 1.
An MRI revealed no significant ligament damage, but a reevaluation by the Bulls' team doctor showed Butler still needs to miss extended time.
This injury comes at an especially bad time for the Bulls, who've lost 12 of their last 17 games and currently sit in the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference. Center Joakim Noah is already out for the season after shoulder surgery, while forward Nikola Mirotic has missed two weeks after an appendectomy but will hopefully be ready after the All-Star break.
In the team's ugly 108-91 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, Chicago was without Butler, Noah, Mirotic and Derrick Rose, who sat out with "general soreness" at the end of a 2-5 road trip. The seventh-seeded Bulls are now just 1.5 games clear of the ninth-seeded Hornets in the playoff picture.
Kemba Walker had 30 points in the game and was a strong candidate to replace Butler in the All-Star Game, but Gasol got the nod instead. The 35-year-old is averaging 17 points and nearly 11 rebounds for the season.