Their roster is down, but the Bulls insist they should not be counted out despite the loss of Jimmy Butler. The Bulls’ injured All-Star guard will be sidelined 3-4 weeks with a strained left knee.
They hope to show that against Atlanta on Wednesday, when they return to the United Center after a frustrating seven-game road trip that saw them go 2-5.
“We definitely need a good win and we need a good game tonight,’’ said Pau Gasol, who has been chosen to replace Butler at the NBA All-Star game in Toronto this weekend. “We need a great effort from every guy who steps on the floor to be able to do it. Atlanta has come off two very close losses to Orlando back-to-back. We come in off a tough road trip. We’re not in an easy situation. But our fight and our resilience has to come out and our pride has to come out. We have to give it our best, and I think that’s going to give us an opportunity to win.’’
Butler joins an injured list that includes Nikola Mirotic (appendectomy and hemotoma removal), who is out indefinitely, and Joakim Noah, who has been lost to season-ending shoulder surgery.
Derrick Rose, who missed Monday’s loss in Charlotte with “general soreness,’’ is scheduled to return vs. Atlanta. Rose, who has been very solidly the last month, is an obvious candidate to fill the Butler void.
The decision to sit Rose was “the right decision,’’ Hoiberg said at the Bulls’ shootaround Wednesday. “It was our fifth game in seven nights. And he wasn’t moving around well leading into that game. So we made the decision collectively to sit Derrick.’’
That said, Hoiberg said the Bulls know that people don’t have much sympathy for their injury situation.
“Nobody feels sorry for us,’’ the coach said. “And we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. You do that and teams pounce all over you. And it gets ugly. That’s what happened in the first quarter against Charlotte. And then we started playing and outscored them in the last three quarters. But you can’t dig yourself a hole in this league. When you’re struggling a little bit, it’s human nature when you get off to a slow start is to put your head down. We can’t afford to do that.’’
Gasol expressed confidence the Bulls, who have dropped to seventh in the Eastern Conference standings, can still make something of their troubled season.
“Once we start getting bodies back, the sense of urgency has to be there,’’ Gasol said. “Hopefully, that will change dramatically and when we get people healthier, we’ll be in good shape and be able to make a good run, a good push.’’
NOTES: Barring a big change, Mirotic has a long road back.
“I saw Niko [Tuesday],’’ Hoiberg said. `He’s still in a lot of pain. He lost a lot of weight. He lost about 15 pounds with the complication. It’s a tough situation. He gets his stitches out today. That will hopefully get him more upright and moving around. But still no timeframe on Niko. After he gets these stitches out and is able to move around a little bit more and get in the hot tub and pool, [we’ll] get him progressing in the right direction.’’
–Gasol, who narrowly missed being voted into the All-Star game, had been planning a warm-weather getaway, but said he feels honored to be named an All-Star in Butler’s place.
“I would have embraced the rest as well,’’ Gasol said. “When I wasn’t selected to be a starter by 360 votes and I wasn’t selected to be a reserve by the coaches, I was disappointed at first. But then I was really embracing it. I was putting a really nice trip together, which now I have to cancel. The good news is that I’ll be participating in All-Star weekend. It’s an honor I’m proud of.’’