Kirk Hinrich’s injury will test Bulls’ backcourt depth

SHARE Kirk Hinrich’s injury will test Bulls’ backcourt depth

Jimmy Butler might be getting some more ballhandling time in the next few games. | Darren Hauck/AP

Jimmy Butler likes to say he has point-guard skills. That just might be tested.

Coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t think the injured left knee veteran Kirk Hinrich suffered Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks was serious, but Hinrich was limping in the locker room, and it appeared he would need at least a few days to recover.

Then there’s Derrick Rose, who went through a full-contact practice for the third time this week. There were no setbacks, but there was also no change in where Rose was in his recovery from surgery on his right knee Feb. 27. Thibodeau said it was ‘‘unlikely’’ when he was asked if there was any way Rose could start Friday against the Detroit Pistons.

That means the backcourt is down to Aaron Brooks, E’Twaun Moore and, of course, Butler, who joked he had point-guard skills before he was supposed to participate in the Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend in February.

‘‘We have options,’’ Thibodeau said.

Those options will open up once Rose is ready to return, with Thibodeau acknowledging that patience is key in dealing with the situation right now.

‘‘You can do the conditioning and the scrimmaging is important . . . but nothing’s gonna be the same as the game,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s just gotta continue to do all the things he’s doing and get out there.

‘‘[Contact is] the big thing because it’s different; it’s body-on-body. There’s the physicality of it. He has to get used to that and getting around screens and things of that nature. The more he does it, the better he’ll get.’’

But what if Rose isn’t the life preserver that teammates have been hoping to see come playoff time? What if missing more than five weeks and being dropped into the high intensity of the playoffs is too much for Rose?

Thibodeau said things will start with a minutes restriction and with an evaluation about how Rose looks when he is out there.

‘‘He’s not gonna be at where he was when he left off,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘We’ll see when he’s ready to go, then we’ll decide how much [he plays].

‘‘He’s gotta play well when he’s out there. You can’t leave him out there if he’s not playing well. You gotta make sure he’s playing well.’’

That’s where Butler might come in. Thibodeau has allowed Butler to take over the playmaker role at times and uses him in pick-and-roll scenarios. Because the Bulls have so many passers and unselfish players, it won’t be uncomfortable for Thibodeau if Butler has to bring the ball upcourt, especially if it’s only for a few games.

A bigger concern for the Bulls was their standing in the Eastern Conference. The loss to the Bucks left them three games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers in the battle for the No. 2 seed with seven games left.

‘‘It definitely made it a lot harder [to catch the Cavaliers],’’ big man Pau Gasol said. ‘‘It’s frustrating because we kind of did it to ourselves, so we’ll see how badly these losses cost us. Just frustrating to lose a game like this when we could have done things a lot different, a lot better.’’


Twitter: @suntimes_hoops

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