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Jimmy Butler injury: Bulls swingman day-to-day with shoulder strain

An MRI revealed only a strain, but it's unclear if Butler will play against the Cavaliers on Thursday.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports



When one key Bulls player comes back, another gets hurt. It's science. Mike Dunleavy returned to the floor against the Kings on Tuesday, but Jimmy Butler didn't play in the second half after aggravating a right shoulder injury originally suffered close to halftime in Orlando, a game in which Butler played his customary 40 minutes anyway.

Luckily, the MRI only confirmed a strain and Butler is day-to-day:

It's unclear just when Butler hurt the shoulder again, but it may have been on a hard screen set by Reggie Evans in the second quarter. Butler went on to play 22 minutes in the first half before being ruled out the rest of the game.

Butler struggled with his shooting against the Kings, going 2-of-8 overall and missing his lone three-point attempt. Most of those misses came in the first quarter before the hard screen, but he easily could have been feeling it from last game.

Butler had been playing really well prior to the Kings game, though, getting out of his recent shooting slump by averaging 25.8 points on the road trip while shooting 49.4 percent overall and 36.4 percent from three. He had 27 points in the Magic win and had some huge plays down the stretch despite the shoulder injury, and while his resurgence didn't necessarily lead to great offense by the Bulls on the trip, it was at least a plus to see him escape his offensive doldrums after some natural regression.

Tony Snell got big minutes against the Kings with Butler ailing, playing a season-high 41 minutes. Snell delivered in a big way, pouring in a career-high 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting overall and 4-of-6 from three. It was the second big game out of three for Snell after a mysterious DNP-CD against the Rockets, as the youngster had 19 points in New Orleans. The second-year man is 11-of-19 from three in his last three games.

It would be a huge bummer if Butler is once again unable to go against LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Thursday, but it would represent another big opportunity for Snell to impress. Snell shot well in the Bulls' ugly loss to the Cavaliers in January, but he also had a handful of pitiful turnovers. Hopefully we see good Snell and not bad Snell if he gets significant minutes, which may happen anyway even if Butler plays. Dunleavy is sure to still be on a minutes limit, and Kirk Hinrich is out again.

This injury to Butler could also call into question his All-Star availability. He's set to participate in the Skills Challenge and the All-Star Game itself, and if the shoulder is still bothering him, it probably would be better for him to sit out. Or perhaps he could just play for a few minutes in the All-Star Game just to have that honor.