ORLANDO – Jimmy Butler was again claiming there was something wrong in his left knee on Saturday.
And it’s still by far the least broken thing about this Bulls team right now.
In what was a new rock bottom for a roster that continued to show an allergic reaction to adversity, the Bulls lost to a short-handed Orlando Magic team playing in a back-to-back, 111-89.
They didn’t just lose gracefully, either.
They laid down from tip-off to final horn, seemingly already resigned to the fact that summer vacation is just 10 regular season games away.
The bigger sting of the evening? Indiana and Detroit each lost, so the Bulls (36-36) could have cut the deficit for both the No. 7 and 8 playoff spots to just a game. Instead, it remained at two, as the Bulls remained lifeless.
“Just a lack of competitiveness,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Hoiberg was then asked if this team has quit on the idea of a playoff run, and responded, “I sure hope not. Obviously what I’m saying right now my message isn’t getting across, and we’re going to sit in a room and hopefully get it figured out [on Sunday].
“Again, the adversity hit us and we struggled with that.’’
As bad as it looked at the Amway Center, the players were still trying to sound like a group that cared.
“Obviously, we’re really struggling right now,’’ Mike Dunleavy said. “It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. In terms of wins and losses we’re not out of it. We’re hanging around. This thing can turn good as quick as it can turn bad.
“I think we’re just a little lost as opposed to just thrown in the towel or anything like that. Just got to find our way.
“We give off that impression of beaten down, but I don’t think anyone’s given in right now. I just don’t think we’re good enough.’’
Meanwhile, earlier in the day the plot surrounding “knee-gate’’ continued to only thicken for Butler.
After telling the Sun-Times on Thursday that offseason exploratory surgery on his left knee was a “maybe,’’ he backed down from that on Saturday, but still acknowledged that something wasn’t right in the knee.
So is Butler.
Asked if he can handle the workload the Bulls need from him the rest of the season, Butler said, “To an extent, yeah. I don’t think [the knee is] going to be as good right now as it was before.’’
Asked exactly what’s still hurting, Butler said, “I don’t know if it’s hurting or it’s just all in my mind. That’s where it starts. I don’t want to make anything worse. I don’t know what to call it. I just have to go play and stop thinking so much.’’
That’s where the two-time All-Star is these days: Searching for answers.
“I think there’s always a fear,’’ Butler said, when asked if he feared the knee could get worse. “I’m not going to say fear because I’m not really scared of anything. But I think there’s a worry. I want to play this game as long as I can. I just think maybe resting it is a good thing. But right now is not the time for that. I know that we have to win games. I want to play and help when I’m out there.’’
Butler did move better in the loss to the Magic, scoring 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting, but like they were for all the starters in the one-sided blowout, minutes were limited.