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As expected, the knee injury to Jimmy Butler is not as serious as first thought

MINNEAPOLIS – It could have been worse.

Injuries and the Bulls usually are.

But the fact that Jimmy Butler’s MRI only showed a left knee strain, well, the organization will take that. As far as how long they will have to endure life without the two-time All-Star? That was yet to be determined.

“Right now it’s a strain,’’ first-year coach Fred Hoiberg said on Saturday. “He’s actually on an airplane right now heading back to Chicago. He’ll see our doctors [Sunday morning] and we should get a better idea about timeframe and see what we want to do for treatments.

“Once he sees the doctor back home, we’ll get a better idea. But it’s the soft tissue around the knee is what the strain is.’’

Butler was injured in the second quarter of the eventual loss to Denver, and there were definitely some scary moments initially, especially when trainers were huddled around Butler on the floor, and instantly signaled for a chair to be brought out so Butler could be wheeled off.

“Sure, it’s scary,’’ Hoiberg said. “He took off. He heard a pop. You expect the worst when you hear that. It happened on the takeoff. I saw the film of it and it didn’t bend funny. But anytime the ligaments are intact, it’s a relief.’’

Butler didn’t address the media after the game, but teammates like Derrick Rose had the sense that it wasn’t an injury that fell in the major category, considering the way Butler was conducting himself in the locker room afterwards.

He will miss the game in Charlotte on Monday, but as far the home game against Atlanta on Wednesday, and then the All-Star Game, Hoiberg was in wait-and-see mode.

As for the rest of Butler’s teammates, they didn’t have that luxury, considering they needed to get ready for the Timberwolves.

“Obviously, Jimmy does a lot for us on both ends,’’ veteran Kirk Hinrich said. “We’ve kind of rode him at times this year when we’ve had injuries and now he’s down. Other guys are going to have to step up and we’ll have to take the challenge.’’

One road Hinrich didn’t want to go down was the idea that this Bulls roster has been somehow snake bitten the last four years.

“After you’ve been around awhile, you realize this sort of thing happens,’’ Hinrich said. “It’s rare when a team goes through a whole season without some sort of significant injury or guys in and out of the lineup.’’