Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler suffered a strained left knee that caused him to miss 14 games during a stretch that included most of February and portions of March, and it turns out he could be headed for the operating table when the season's over.
Citing a source, the Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley reported Thursday that Butler "was told that exploratory surgery on the knee was in play as soon as the season comes to an end."
Speaking to Cowley, Butler didn't rule out the possibility of going under the knife: "Maybe. I hope not. Is my knee the same as it was before the injury? No. But I want to play, man. And at times I feel like I’m hurting this team. That’s the most disappointing part because I’m not the player I was."
He's not kidding.
Since returning from the injury full time on March 14, Butler is averaging 14.6 points on 38 percent shooting from the field and 10 percent shooting from three over the course of seven games. Those figures are startling when compared to his numbers before the stretch of missed games on Feb. 6.
"I don’t know if there’s something really wrong in there, but it’s not really right, either," Butler added, per Cowley. "But I’ll be fine. I have to figure out a way to help us win playing with this. That’s all I’m worried about."
With the Bulls currently teetering on the brink of disaster after dropping back-to-back games to the New York Knicks, it's hard to overstate how much a healthy Butler would aid the team's postseason push.
Chicago is currently 1.5 games behind the Detroit Pistons for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot, but it hasn't resembled a true postseason qualifier for weeks.
Now facing the reality that their seven-season streak of qualifying for the playoffs is in jeopardy, the Bulls may be pressed to answer some tough questions as they evaluate what went wrong when the offseason rolls around.