Best guess for a Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic return is still a ‘couple weeks away’

SHARE Best guess for a Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic return is still a ‘couple weeks away’

Nikola Mirotic missed his 11th-straight game on Sunday night, while Jimmy Butler missed consecutive start No. 6.

And neither of them have a clear timetable for a return.

“I’d still say a couple weeks away for both of them,’’ Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said, offering up a best guess on both players.

However, it was just that – a guess.

Butler last played on Feb. 5, before a left knee strain sidelined him. The Bulls leading scorer was moving around better before the game with the Los Angeles Lakers, but is yet to even try and test the leg in simulated basketball activity. That will hopefully start happening at some point this week.

“As far as Jimmy is concerned, he’s another guy that’s making progress,’’ Hoiberg said. “He’s feeling a lot better, and hopefully we’ll get him out there [this week] to at least test him to see if he can explode off that leg.’’

Mirotic’s situation is a bit trickier. The second-year player had back-to-back surgeries after an appendicitis led to a hematoma.

“Niko, he’s doing much better,’’ Hoiberg said. “He’s out there shooting now. He’s still not able to do much running, he’s still got pain in that abdomen. Hopefully that will progress as we move on this week. He’s still doing pool work as of right now, and again, hopefully that’s the next step forward for Niko is getting him out there on the floor and doing running, conditioning. Try and get him back in some type of shape. He’s still down about 10 pounds, so that’s still an issue.’’

E’Twaun Moore continued to get the start in Butler’s place, while Hoiberg has been mixing and matching to replace Mirotic’s bench minutes.

Further explanation

Kobe Bryant said he did all he could to keep Pau Gasol from leaving the Lakers and signing with the Bulls prior to the 2014-15 season, but understood why the big man left Hollywood.

“I tried everything under the sun to convince him to stay,’’ Bryant said. “Pau is such a prideful person and when he felt like he was being disrespected with all of the continual trade talks despite the success that we had, and the benching and all that stuff. He just felt completely disrespected. I understood that as a man and there was nothing I could do but just wish him luck.’’

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