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Jimmy Butler injury: Bulls wing out 2-4 weeks with sprained thumb

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The Bulls won't have their best wing defender early in the season.

Jonathan Daniel

Who's guarding Carmelo Anthony in the season opener for the Bulls tonight? It's not Jimmy Butler. Butler said he'll miss the opener with a left thumb injury sustained late in the preseason. It won't be the only game he misses.

With a matchup against the LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers looming Friday, it's quickly becoming apparent how important Butler is to this team. The backup wing defender is ... Mike Dunleavy? Tony Snell?

Remember: the Bulls put Butler back into a preseason game even after it was obvious he injured his thumb. In a preseason. Preseason. Game.

Also remember: the NBA's early extension deadline is Friday Oct. 31, and Butler is a candidate for a fat new contract. While the timing of this injury is terrible for the Bulls, at least Butler won't have to take the court with contract negotiations hovering over his head. There haven't been many rumblings about how those talks are going yet, but the Bulls have reached last second extensions before. Just ask Taj Gibson.