All Jimmy Butler wants for Christmas is a new right foot.
"This one's all used up," Butler said, smiling, after Tuesday's practice at the Berto Center. "But I'm all right. Turf toe, little ankle problem, nothing I can't handle, I guess."
On one hand, with Butler joining Kirk Hinrich in stating they plan to return from their respective injuries for Wednesday's Christmas matinee in Brooklyn, the Bulls are feeling some good holiday vibes.
On the other, with Luol Deng still not practicing because of a sore left Achilles and the following admission from Butler, who has endured both turf toe and a sprained right ankle, the next health issue in this most disjointed of seasons seems inevitable.
"It's bothering me a little bit," Butler said not of the ankle that has sidelined him for the last six quarters but the toe that previously cost him 11 games. "But I feel like it's going to bother me like that for the rest of my career now."
Butler's comment echoed the casual revelation Derrick Rose made Nov. 21 at a morning shootaround in Denver. Rose, who missed time two seasons ago to turf toe, surprisingly offered that the toe still bothers him on occasion.
Then again, given what happened to Rose the next night in Portland, Ore., when his season ended with a torn right meniscus, the Bulls might be OK with an injury as sporadically annoying as turf toe.
With four games remaining in 2013, the Bulls hope to put a mostly annoying calendar year behind them with improved play as they enjoy -- at least for now -- improved health. Though still without Deng, the returns of Hinrich and Butler, paired with the emergence of D.J. Augustin and rookie Tony Snell, should provide depth that could serve the Bulls well moving into 2014.
"I feel like once everybody starts getting back into rhythm, getting back to playing with each other, we're going to be a force to reckon with," Butler said.
Then again, that's a big if given this season's myriad health issues.
Thibodeau wouldn't reveal his starters against the Nets, but he did confirm his desire to at some point start pairing Augustin with Hinrich. Butler and Hinrich worked with the starters for parts of Tuesday's practice, the Bulls' final preparation for the kickoff game of the NBA's showcase Christmas event.
"I think it's an honor and privilege to play on that day," Thibodeau said. "I think a lot of teams want to play on that day. We're thrilled that they asked us."
That invitation, of course, came before the loss of Rose. It's the second straight Christmas Day game Rose will miss.
And his absence will make Butler's other holiday wish more challenging, although the reeling Nets could comply.
"I just want a win," Butler said. "That's what I think we all want."
Layups: New York products Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah will play in front of a large contingent of family and friends. "It's cool and an honor," Noah said. ... Thibodeau, on whether he has doubts first-year Nets coach Jason Kidd will succeed: "None. He's always shown great leadership. Every team that he played with, he always made that team a lot better. ... He's a bright guy. Like anything else, he's going to get better and better at it."
(c)2013 Chicago Tribune
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