SAN ANTONIO – The status with Jimmy Butler’s left knee didn’t change on Thursday.
His mind being eased definitely did.
The two-time All-Star received the news that the Bulls organization expected him to hear, as his visit down to Florida and Dr. James Andrews revealed that there was nothing structurally wrong with his left knee, and he could continue a workout program to get him back on the court.
The only question still unanswered was when will that return take place?
According to coach Fred Hoiberg, Butler worked out Thursday night back in Chicago, would be re-evaluated in the morning, and then go through another workout Friday afternoon. If all goes well, there’s even a chance Butler could play in the game against Miami later that night.
“I wouldn’t rule it out, but at the same time we’re going to be safe with it,’’ Hoiberg said.
Butler first suffered the knee strain back on Feb. 5, in a loss at Denver, and then missed the next 11 games, as the Bulls went 3-8 without him. He returned to play against Houston last Saturday, putting in 34 minutes of work and scoring 24 points in the win, but two days later he experienced some swelling in the same knee area and was a scratch in the Milwaukee game.
That’s about when Butler started thinking it was time for a second opinion.
Not that the Bulls should have been surprised. Butler’s early NBA mentor was Luol Deng, who had reason to have a distrust with the Bulls medical staff.
So Butler headed down to Florida late Wednesday night, and saw Dr. Andrews Thursday morning, missing the game with the Spurs.
Now that his mind has been eased, the hope is his knee will react likewise.
“The mental aspect is huge in something like this,’’ Hoiberg said. “Jimmy went down and saw one of the best doctors in the world that’s worked on a lot of athletes, and was told that everything was structurally sound in there. That’s what he was looking to hear and wanted to hear, and now it’s about going out there and getting comfortable, and sitting down with Jimmy, putting a plan together on how exactly we’re going to move forward with it.’’
The good news with Butler is that because he keeps himself in such great shape, conditioning and minutes restrictions work differently with him.
“Jimmy’s as well conditioned an athlete as I’ve been around,’’ Hoiberg said. “He does so much to keep himself in great shape. I think that’s why everybody was comfortable with Jimmy coming back 100 percent after his two weeks where he was going through his full workout regimen, and didn’t have any pain or swelling in the knee.
“And then had a great practice and was monitored in the game. So again, we’ll see how everything goes [Thursday] and then re-evaluate before the [Miami] game.’’