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Posted Dec 13, 2013 6:28 PM - Updated Dec 13, 2013 8:19 PM
• Swingman Jimmy Butler will return to the Bulls lineup after missing the past 11 games with a toe injury on his right foot. "He's a go," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who added Butler would start. Thibodeau wasnt sure what he'd be able to expect from Butler, who hasn't played since Nov. 18. "We'll see," Thibodeau said. "He looks good in the drills. We won't know till he gets out there, but I want to see what he can handle." Forward Luol Deng will not play for the fourth straight game with a sore Achilles. Thibodeau is hopeful that Deng might be able to play Saturday night at New York. "He's feeling a lot better, but he's not quite there," Thibodeau said. "We'll see tomorrow. He's close."
• Bucks guard Gary Neal will return after missing the last two games with a sore left foot. Neal received a cortisone shot on Tuesday. He's been battling plantar fasciitis since last season. "Gary's going to give it a shot," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "He moved around real well in the shoot-around this morning and he felt pretty good."
• Bucks guard O.J. Mayo's grandmother passed away Friday morning and he missed the morning shoot-around. Mayo will play tonight but his status for Saturday's game at Dallas is still uncertain. "He texted me and told me what happened and said he expected to be here tonight," Drew said.
• The Lakers injury problems got even worse yesterday when the team announced that backup point guard Steve Blake will miss at least the next six weeks with a torn ligament in his elbow. Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar are also out. With no healthy pure point guards on the roster, Kobe Bryant will start at that position tonight and guard Thunder All-Star Russell Westbrook. "I trust Kobe, Kobe will do a good job. He'll surprise us. He's a little out of position but a lot of guys are." Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game. D'Antoni also said though he will keep a close eye on Bryant, "we'll watch his minutes and he's gotta tell us how he feels.
• The Thunder have also been dealing with injuries. Starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha will miss his third straight game with a sprained right knee. Rookie Andre Roberson will again start in place of Sefolosha. "I've really liked his defense the last two games," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said about Roberson. Backup center Steven Adams left Wednesday night's game in Memphis with a sprained right ankle but Adams is good to go tonight.
• Big men Tiago Splitter and Aron Baynes are both out of action for the Spurs in Friday night's game against the Timberwolves. Splitter has been dealing with tightness in his left calf and missed the last two games. Baynes suffered an ankle injury in Tuesday's win over the Raptors and missed San Antonio's game against the Bucks on Wednesday. Jeff Ayres will continue to start in Splitter's place.
• Memphis (10-11) will have the services of Tony Allen, who has missed the past four games with a hip contusion. Allen has averaged 10.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 points per game in the 16 games he has played this season. He has scored in double figures in the previous five consecutive games played.
• The Grizzlies remain without C Marc Gasol, who has a sprained left medial collateral ligament. The play-making duties have fallen on the shoulders of G Mike Conley, who has responded with more assists, fewer turnovers and more double-doubles than he recorded prior to Gasol's injury. Williams, the Pelicans coach, called Conley the head of the snake in referring to Conley's role. He'll be needed if Memphis is going to get back on track. Since winning four straight road games from Nov. 15-20, the Grizzlies have gone 3-6.
• Nene will not play Friday night when the Wizards face the host Hawks. The Washington center-forward has battled tendinitis in his right foot, missing Tuesday's game against the Nuggets as well.
• John Salmons, Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson will all be available to play for the Toronto Raptors. Along with Chuck Hayes, the trio was acquired from the Sacramento Kings in a trade with for Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy on Sunday. "We want to make sure we integrate them in and mix them in as much as possible," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of the newcomers. "We've given them some simple things to think about and do offensively but the one thing they can do, and it's universal, is play defense so I'm excited to see what they bring and what shakes out of it." Hayes will be unable to play as he is in Cleveland undergoing baseline cardio tests.
• Magic forward Tobias Harris will play for the first time since aggravating his high ankle sprain Nov. 24 in his only appearance of the season. "There's definitely a mental hurdle once you get hurt and re-tweak it again," Harris said. "I just have confidence in myself and confidence that my ankle is healed and that I can go out there and play to the best of my abilities." Harris will not start, but Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said he has "no minutes restrictions." Solomon Jones will be inactive to accommodate Harris' active roster spot..
• Coming off one of their better performances this season, the Nets will play without their starting center. Brook Lopez, who scored 16 points in the Nets' 102-93 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, will sit out with a sprained left ankle. Veteran Reggie Evans will start in his place, according to head coach Jason Kidd.
• Iman Shumpert (bruised left knee) will start tonight's game against the Celtics. "I'm good. It's just a bruise," Shumpert said after this morning's shootaround. Shumpert suffered the injury in a collision with Mike Dunleavy Jr. during the Knicks' win over the Bulls Wednesday night.
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