Two Alphas down. One to go? Not Jimmy.
“It’s all about the mental aspect of it because I don’t think anybody cares if I’m nicked up, if I’m hurt,” Jimmy Butler was saying after Bulls practice Thursday morning regarding his left wrist nicks. “I’ve got a job to do, to try and get us into the playoffs, to try and help us win these last couple of games. Nicked up or not, everybody is at this point and time in the season.”
Some with the nicks too deep, though, like Rajon Rondo, won't make it this time. Rondo joined Dwyane Wade and his elbow injury out for Thursday’s game against the 76ers.
Rondo was officially diagnosed with a right wrist sprain, said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, from a fall in the loss against the Knicks Tuesday. Wade began practicing with the team this week and could return as early as Saturday if his progress remains positive. Wade did not attend Thursday morning’s practice.
“(Wade) feels sore,” said Hoiberg. “He's got a recovery day today, kind of the plan going into this. Hard practice yesterday and then recover today. He's got soreness, obviously, with his first full practice. General soreness. More in his legs, honestly, than his elbow. Had a good hard practice and see how he progresses.
“Rajon will be out tonight,” Hoiberg added. “The MRI confirmed a sprain of his wrist. Right now he’s day to day, but still has a lot of soreness and swelling in that wrist. A lot of it is based on feel with Rajon. He's got the ball in his hands, flinging passes. There's still some soreness with all those movements. All we know right now is he's out. But he does feel a little better than he did yesterday.”
Hoiberg said Jerian Grant will return as a starter with Michael Carter-Williams remaining the backup.
“He's (Grant) had some experience in the starting lineup,” noted Hoiberg. “He started 25 games for us, (we get to) put a shooter out there with Jimmy. So that's the reason we went with Jerian.”
Which could translate into triple double Butler Thursday in what is the Bulls first truly meaningful game against the 76ers since the first game of the 2012 playoffs. And that didn’t go very well.
The Bulls now are tied for the seventh through ninth spots in the Eastern Conference with the Heat and Pacers for the last playoff spots. The last time the teams played, the 76ers crushed the Bulls in the United Center and scored a season high 70 points inside in repeatedly beating the Bulls to the basket for easy layups and dunks.
“Yeah, I feel like I’ve got to do a little bit more,” Butler said. “Continue to play like I’ve been playing. Shoot the ball when you’re open, pass when you’re not. Keep it simple, and try and make everybody else’s job a little bit easier. Rondo used to get people wide open shots. Hopefully, I can do that role right now, get people some wide open shots, make the right play.”
And make sure Grant is aggressive.
Grant is primarily a shooting point guard and not a facilitator like Rondo. So Butler probably will fill that role, also. But Butler said Grant then cannot afford to be hesitant offensively, like he sometimes has been.
“I just want him to know that he can go out there and not be afraid to make a mistake,” said Butler. “Go out there and play hard, guard your man, shoot the ball, be aggressive. That’s what we need. We don’t need you to try and throw me the ball every single time. That’s not the right basketball play. So if you can take your man, if you can get a basket, by all means please do that. Sometimes if you’re not open you’ve still got to shoot it just to see if you’re hitting shots. I believe in that. You never know if you’re going to hit four in a row if you don’t shoot it four times.
“I just hope that he still has that confidence (from previously starting), knowing that he belongs in this league, on this team, and he can really play,” said Butler. “I hope and I wish that he does show up tonight."
As for Rondo, despite a wrap on his hand and unable to participate, he stayed on the court during and after practice the longest, talking with players, shooting some left hand shots.
“Just taking it one hour at a time,” Rondo said about his timetable.
“It’s a ligament that’s kind of not in the right place right now,” he explained. “It’s causing it to pop a little bit. I don’t swell that much whenever I’m hurt. So I’ll be OK. It hurts. It’s painful. It’s my dominant hand. When I can still make an impact on the game is when I’ll play again. Just listen to how it feels. Just worried about getting it better as soon as possible. Hopefully, I’ll get a good night’s rest tonight and it feels better tomorrow.”
Though the best part of the interview with Rondo, which is often terse, was his response to the cliché question about his disappointment about the injury coming this time of season. Like with his passes, you have to be alert because he’s unconventional.
“No,” Rondo said about being disappointed.
The philosopher/Alpha speaks.