February 12, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Chicago Bulls were severely short-handed for Sunday's game against Minnesota. If Jimmy Butler's heel doesn't improve quickly, the Eastern Conference could face a similar issue in the All-Star game next weekend.

The Bulls scratched Butler, Dwyane Wade, Nikola Mirotic and Paul Zipser in the 117-89 loss to the Timberwolves and old coach Tom Thibodeau, the final one of a six-game road trip.

Wade sat out with a swollen right wrist, Butler has a bruised right heel, Mirotic developed back spasms and Zipser stayed at the team hotel because of an illness. That left the Bulls with 10 healthy players against the Timberwolves.

Butler missed three games with a bruised right heel before returning to play 30 minutes in a loss to Phoenix on Friday. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Butler reported ''pretty significant soreness'' and would be re-evaluated before the team plays Toronto on Tuesday. He said it was too soon to tell about Butler's availability for the All-Star game in New Orleans on Feb. 18.

Butler said it wasn't a mistake to play in the Suns game even after the injury came back.

''I love the game,'' he said. ''I love playing with these guys. I will take that risk.''

Wade had X-rays at Target Center that came back clean. He injured it while bracing a fall in Friday night's game against Phoenix. The team views his status as day-to-day for the moment.

''I'm just focusing on now,'' Wade said when asked if he thinks he will be shut down through the All-Star break. ''Obviously I've played through a lot of things, so I can play through it if it's manageable. But really not today when I can't bend it.''

Zipser likely would have missed the game on Sunday anyway with a sore left ankle if he had not become sick, and Mirotic came out of the Suns game with back spasms that intensified once the team landed in Minnesota.

All of the injuries are the latest problems for a Bulls team that has been drowning in dysfunction and distraction this season.

''It seems like the Oklahoma City game was 35 days ago,'' Hoiberg said of the first game of the trip, way back on Feb. 1. ''We just have to continue to fight, continue to battle.''

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