MINNEAPOLIS — Zach LaVine would have loved one more go at Jimmy Butler.
The last time they faced off a few weeks ago, it was a classic showdown between the two, with LaVine finishing with 35 points and the victory and Butler putting up 38 in his homecoming.
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It resembled a one-on-one game that easily could have been moved to a local YMCA in the West Loop and settled there.
The rematch will have to wait.
Butler was not on the floor in the Timberwolves’ 122-104 victory Saturday, regretfully so, as far as LaVine was concerned.
“For sure,’’ LaVine said after the game when asked if he missed the matchup. “Just to have him on the court. You don’t want anybody to be injured like that.’’
According to a source, Butler suffered a tear in his right meniscus Friday in a loss to the Rockets and will spend the next few days figuring out the path that would get him back on the court the quickest. The source said it was a goal of his “to be right for the playoffs.’’ While surgery is likely, different options were being explored.
Considering how much Butler meant to the Bulls, it was an injury that both organizations felt.
“Thankful it’s not something to do with one of the ligaments,’’ Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Jimmy is a quick healer and obviously as tough a player as there is in this game. I’m sure he’ll do everything to get himself back to where he can help this team in the playoffs. He’s done so much for this team already in a short time, already brought a winning culture to this team. Always wish him the best.’’
He wasn’t the only coach on the floor at the Target Center to feel that way.
“Anytime a player goes down, you have concern, particularly a player like that, when he stays down, that’s not Jimmy,’’ Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Thibodeau would know. He helped raise Butler in the NBA during his Bulls days and was well-versed in the All-Star’s makeup.
“Jimmy is a fierce competitor, so that part, there’s probably a little disappointment there, but the one thing about Jimmy is he has great mental toughness, and if you know his story, this guy has overcome just about everything you can overcome,’’ Thibodeau said. “That’s one of his great strengths.’’
The injury hit close to home for LaVine. Not only because of the matchup in their first meeting and because LaVine was sent to the Bulls in the trade Thibodeau made for Butler, but because LaVine tore his left anterior cruciate ligament a year ago this month.
“It’s scary,’’ LaVine said. “You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad. You think you’re good, you’re a tough-minded person trying to get through it.
“I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.’’
Butler was actually in the arena and on crutches before the game, fulfilling an obligation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and was in good spirits.
His current and former teams didn’t have much time to dwell on the injury.
The Timberwolves (37-26) are trying to end a 13-year playoff drought, battling in the hotly contested Western Conference. The Bulls (20-39) have 23 games left to develop their youth. LaVine paced the Bulls with 21 points. The suddenly undermanned Wolves were led by Jeff Teague’s 25.