There is no reason to sugarcoat it: this has been a nightmare season for the Bulls. It's almost funny, in a sadistic way, to think about how it started with championship aspirations. Everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. The current state of Jimmy Butler might personify this lost season better than anyone.
Muffin Top Mania has faded, replaced by an injured and ineffective player still giving the Bulls all he has, without the results. Butler has battled turf toe and an ankle sprain throughout the season, the former of which he recently said might affect him for the rest of his career. It certainly affected him Saturday night in a 22-point home loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Butler played 46 minutes despite being clearly injured, finishing with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists on 2-of-10 shooting from the floor.
Nearly every recap focused on Butler's health after the game. A sampling:
- "Jimmy Butler struggled to take off his uniform, limped slowly to the showers and gingerly took a seat in front or his locker in the Bulls locker room."
It's been that type of season. While there has been some talk of the Bulls changing the way they handle injuries, Butler's situation leaves us asking the same questions that have been floating around for the entirety of Tom Thibodeau's coaching tenure.
If it's clear as day Butler is injured, why is he playing 46 minutes? It's true that Tony Snell and Mike Dunleavy didn't give Thibodeau much of a bail out option -- they combined to go 3-of-17 from the field -- but what's troubling is a failure to see the bigger picture. The Bulls were getting pounded the entire game. At a certain point, the health of Butler -- the one promising under-25 player on the team -- has to take precedence.
What's really disheartening is that there doesn't appear to be anything that can be done about it. This is how Thibodeau is. He's the best asset the Bulls have because he essentially guarantees a top five defense. Even in the current dystopia, the Bulls are sixth overall in points allowed per 100 possessions. The coach is a tactical genius, but he seems to lack a basic component of humanity.
You don't need advanced credentials to see Butler should not have been playing 46 minutes last night. Somehow, the one guy paid to recognize it is the only one who doesn't.