The news on the toe injury Jimmy Butler suffered against the Bobcats on Monday night is not encouraging. He's been diagnosed with a sprain (more commonly referred to as turf toe) and won't travel on the Bulls' annual Circus Trip, a six-game stretch on the road that kicks off Thursday against the Nuggets. It's an unfortunate blow for a team that badly needs to keep playing together to form cohesion, but what's really worrisome how the Bulls again handled an injury with their own signature touch of tone deaf magic.
The game against the Bobcats was tightly contested all the way through, but there was still no reason for Butler to be re-inserted back into the lineup for four minutes in the fourth quarter. Butler valiantly gave it a go but he wasn't healthy or effective before he was mercifully pulled.
Why was he playing on an injured toe in the first place? While can't the Bulls learn from their own mistakes?
The truth is that this exact scenario has reared its head far too often in the recent past. In the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, Omer Asik was re-inserted back into a game with what was later diagnosed as a fractured fibula. In the 2012 playoffs against the 76ers, Joakim Noah badly sprained his ankle only to be reinserted for a few painful minutes as he limped around the court. It happened to Derrick Rose too after he suffered a toe injury against the Timberwolves during that spectacularly doomed 2012 season. He would play 42 minutes in that game, including the entire second half.
Butler is "week-to-week" according to the Bulls, but there's little reason they should be trusted at this point. It's inconceivable how horrific this franchise is at dealing with injuries, and it starts from the top down. #FredClearedHim has become a thing because that's Thibodeau's bailout response, but the truth is that he's more to blame than anyone. There were reports in the offseason that the Bulls' front office wasn't happy with how Thibodeau managed minutes and injuries, but it sure hasn't stopped this ridiculous problem from occurring once again.
It's completely indefensible. Placing Butler back into the game only put him at risk and certainly didn't help the team. At a certain point, all of these incidents form a trend. It's a disturbing one.
There's no logical reason Jimmy should have been back in that game. There's no reason Noah should have hobbled around in Philadelphia two years ago. There's plenty of other examples of mismanagement with injuries even beyond all of this. The spinal tap that seemed like it almost killed Luol Deng in the playoffs last season comes to mind.
Injury management is one of the biggest problems facing this franchise, and it should be the first thing reporters ask Thibodeau on Thursday. Why did this happen, and why does it keep happening?
I can't imagine there's an acceptable answer to be found. The questions are just getting started.