Chicago Bulls star guard will miss three-to-four weeks with a knee strain, the team announced on Tuesday. Butler suffered the injury in the second quarter of Friday’s 115-110 loss at Denver, and has missed the last two games while under evaluation.
The 26-year-old had an impressive January, averaging 24.9 points per game on 46 percent shooting, leading to a selection on the East Team for this weekend's All-Star Game in Toronto. Teammate and forward Pau Gasol’s already been tabbed to replace him.
“Butler has begun rehabbing his injury and he will be allowed to engage in all activities as tolerated with the primary goal of maintaining his conditioning over the ensuing weeks,” the Bulls wrote in a statement.
Injury layovers don’t necessarily follow team doctors or trainers’ estimates, and it’s possible the Bulls' leading scorer could come back sooner than expected. The best reasonable estimate for Butler to return would probably be a road date against the Miami Heat on March 1, which means he would miss seven games.
Should Butler need the full four weeks, he could miss 11 total games and play against Houston on March 5 at the United Center.
The Bulls have a Wednesday matchup against Atlanta, but then take seven days off due to the All-Star break. However, the Bulls (27-24) are now in danger of limping out of the second-half gate with key matchups at Cleveland on Feb. 18 and vs. Toronto on Feb. 19 coming up right after the break.
Chicago has suffered a 3-7 skid in their last 10 games and fallen to No. 7 in the Eastern Conference after spending most of the first-half of the season in the mix with the Cavaliers and Raptors atop the East standings. With Butler out, head coach Fred Hoiberg is expected to turn to E'Twaun Moore, who has raised his scoring average from 3.5 points to 6.2 points due to a sharp increase in minutes over the past seven games.
Hoiberg has already been without big man Joakim Noah, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, Derrick Rose sat out Monday's loss to the Charlotte Hornets due to knee soreness and second-year forward Nikola Mirotic is still recovering from an appendectomy on Jan. 27.
On Monday, Hoiberg said that Mirotic is "feeling a lot better," but didn't announce a timetable for his return.