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Jimmy Butler injury: Sprained thumb could sideline Bulls wing at start of regular season

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The season doesn't begin until next Wednesday, but the Bulls already have their first injured starter.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Butler was in obvious pain when he injured his thumb during the first quarter of Sunday's preseason victory against the Charlotte Hornets. Butler came over the sideline wincing, but the Bulls did not take him out of the game. He stayed on the court for a few more minutes until Aaron Brooks was subbed in with one minute remaining in the period.

The Bulls confirmed the initial diagnosis for Butler with an MRI on Tuesday. He has a sprained left thumb. He won't practice the rest of the week or play in the Bulls' final preseason game Friday against the Timberwolves. He'll be re-evaluated before the Bulls start things for real against the New York Knicks on Oct. 29.

This sure seems to put Jimmy's availability in question for the opener. It's also a reminder of how much they're counting on him this season. Jimmy was ready to draw the assignment on Carmelo Anthony on Wednesday and LeBron James on Friday when the Bulls host Cleveland. Without him, there's no go-to wing defender on the roster.

What's frustrating about this is the Bulls didn't even check him out when the injury happened, despite the fact that was very clearly hurting.

We can argue about whether this is the trainer's fault, or Thibs' fault, but does it really matter? This organization is consistently short-sightly and stupid with things like this, and it's troublesome for a group of players that always seem to be hurting. Butler very well may be out there when the Bulls open against New York, but how much will it affect his play? The Bulls may target players for their toughness and "grit", but that shouldn't mean they have to be so ignorant when it comes to handling players who just suffered injuries.

When Jimmy stayed in the game on Sunday, you knew he was going to be ruled out eventually. It's just happened too many times over the last few years. While this preseason has shown the Bulls should win a lot of games this season if they're healthy, health has always been a chief concern since Tom Thibodeau became the coach.

Butler was hobbled for most of last season after suffering a toe injury in November (and subsequently missing 11 games). It was a convenient and reasonable excuse for a slight step-back in his third season. Now he's hurt again before the season even starts, and this time Luol Deng isn't around to serve as an auxiliary wing stopper.

Remember: Butler and Carmelo Anthony tied for the league lead in minutes per game last season. Look at the roster this year and it's easy to imagine Jimmy playing even more than he did a year ago. This is why this injury is a bummer. Maybe it won't be a big deal. Let's hope it's not. There is a trend here, though, and it's something worth monitoring until the Bulls can finally stay healthy.