The scariest phrase any sports franchise can mutter came out of the mouth of Fred Hoiberg following Wednesday’s practice.
“[Jimmy Butler’s] going down to see Dr. [James] Andrews in Alabama,’’ the coach said.
And just like that, small pieces of flooring started to break apart underneath the Bulls postseason hopes.
According to Hoiberg, the left knee strain that kept Butler sidelined for a month until his return on Saturday, was experiencing some pain in the back of the knee area.
Although the swelling was down and team doctors told the two-time All-Star that they discovered nothing structurally wrong in the knee, Butler made the decision to go ahead and see the best sports doctor in the entire country and get a second opinion.
“Yeah,’’ Hoiberg said, when asked if it was Butler’s call, “and you know, everybody agrees that it’s a good idea to go down there and just get an opinion from one of the top doctors in the world.’’
What should have the Bulls a bit nervous, however, is the fact that Butler was concerned enough about the knee to seek out Andrews. If there is something not right in there, a trip to Alabama will reveal it.
And while the Bulls will wait for those results, Hoiberg was still defending the process of how Butler was brought along throughout the injury.
“Jimmy had two really good weeks going 100 percent on that leg,’’ Hoiberg said. “Had a really good practice the day before [the game with Houston]. Got him out in a game situation, felt great during the game. We monitored him throughout that game on how he was feeling. He actually felt good the next morning. Participated in practice. And then it swelled up on him.
“So as far as the plan the first time around, as far as going hard for two weeks, that was the plan that was put in place. Now obviously with a little bit of a setback, we’ll send him down there and again, confer with everybody – [Bulls team physician] Dr. [Brian] Cole and Dr. Andrews, who are very close, and then see where things are.’’
Where they are initially for the Bulls is that Butler will miss the game in San Antonio on Thursday night. Considering the Spurs are 54-10 on the season and 30-0 at home, not really the best time to be without their best player.
“This has been unusual,’’ Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy said of yet another injury setback. “You’re always dealing with injuries. I just think with what we’ve been through the last few years and you throw this on top of it, it’s kind of crazy. Stuff happens. That’s the way this league is. We just have to fight through it.’’
How crazy is it?
Butler and Dunleavy have only played one game together this season – the win over Houston on Saturday.
“Getting Mike back [from back surgery] has been huge for us,’’ Hoiberg said. “I’d love to see him and Jimmy on the floor, and hopefully we’ll get good news with Jimmy’s situation and get those guys together. They’ve only played one game on the floor, and when you look at the numbers of those two guys when they’re on the floor together it was great.
“Again, looking back to last year’s numbers with those two guys, it was really good. When you look at the pairs, they had as good a rating as anybody on our team, so that’s the big thing.’’
This time of the season, everything is big.