Bulls' Butler sidelined by left knee soreness
CHICAGO (AP) Jimmy Butler's return from a knee injury lasted all of one game, and the Chicago Bulls aren't sure when the All-Star guard will be able to play again.
Butler missed 11 games with a strained left knee before he had 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in Chicago's 108-100 victory over Houston on Saturday night. But he had some stiffness in his back on Sunday and then developed some swelling in his knee on Monday, prompting the Bulls to rest him during their 100-90 win over Milwaukee.
''The doctor said structurally he was OK,'' coach Fred Hoiberg said. ''We will get him to wear a compression thing ... for want of a better word, and we will make a determination tomorrow. We do not have plans for an MRI.''
It's an ominous sign for Chicago, which is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since it went 33-49 in the 2007-08 season. The Bulls (32-30) are eighth in the Eastern Conference, just a half-game ahead of Detroit for the final playoff spot.
Heading into the visit by Milwaukee, Chicago had lost 140 games due to injury or illness. Then reserves Aaron Brooks (right patellar tendinitis) and Bobby Portis (left orbital contusion) were forced from Monday's victory due to injuries.
''I mean at this point it's borderline comical,'' forward Mike Dunleavy said. ''We just can't stay healthy for whatever reason.''
The 26-year-old Butler played 34 minutes against the Rockets and is averaging 37.8 minutes in his fifth NBA season, a slight decrease from his average of 38.7 minutes in each of the past two years, but tied with Rockets star James Harden for the league lead heading into Monday's games.
The Bulls also got Nikola Mirotic back against the Rockets, but he is on a minutes restriction. Mirotic, who scored 14 points in 20 minutes against Milwaukee, missed 16 games following an appendectomy and subsequent procedure to remove a blood clot.
The 26-year-old Butler is averaging 22.4 points in 49 games this season. Chicago dropped eight of 11 games while he was out with his recent knee injury.
''Obviously, there's concern. Jimmy's a warrior, he's going to try to play through anything,'' Hoiberg said before the game. ''He developed swelling around that knee and he's got a lot of soreness in there. Just too early to tell exactly how long this one will be. He's optimistic he'll be back soon in talking to him, and I'll never doubt him.''
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap