And then there were none.
Taj Gibson, who was the only Bulls player not to miss a game in yet another injury marred season, Wednesday had to sit out with a hamstring strain he suffered in Tuesday’s loss in Miami.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said it was, ‘tightness right in the belly of his hamstring,” and the team would evaluate Gibson. Hoiberg said Gibson’s time out with unknown for now.
“It was still hurting today,” a disappointed Gibson said before Wednesday’s game. “I’m going to get re-evaluated by Dr. (Brian) Cole during halftime. We’ll see what happens. I hope it’s not long (out) because I really wanted to try to play every game. That was my goal coming in, but it was just really tough. My hammy was really bothering me for a long time, but I just kept playing through the fatigue.
“I just really had the mindset (of not missing a game) after having a tough season last year with my ankle constantly hurt that I just want to play injury free,” said Gibson. “Last night when I went up for a dunk against Amare (Stoudemire in the third quarter, the hamstring) grabbed me and I couldn’t really function how I wanted to function. They’ve been working with me on it for a month now. It just got worse last night./p>
“This is the first time my hamstring ever acted up (like this),” said Gibson. “(I’ve) been trying to maintain it, push through it. But last night it just grabbed me. I couldn’t do anything.��
It’s yet another setback for a staggering Bulls team that had fallen to 30-29 coming into Orlando and ninth place in the Eastern Conference. If the season ended now, the Bulls would not be in the playoffs.
“To see yourself on the outside looking in you have to be mentally tough; you can’t feel sorry for yourself,” said Hoiberg. “Nobody else would. You have to come out with great urgency with a 48-minute commitment to give yourself a chance.”
The Bulls are obviously hoping Gibson’s issue isn’t serious. Hoiberg said he spoke to Jimmy Butler Wednesday and Butler is improving quickly and will practice with the team Friday. Hoiberg indicated Butler is close to returning and could play Saturday or perhaps Monday. Nikola Mirotic seems not as close after the severe weight loss following his appendix surgery and complications.
Thus it become suddenly a do-or-die vital time for the Bulls with a once seemingly assured playoff stake at risk.
“We understand that,” said Gibson. “Everybody understands that. It’s coming down to the wire. We can’t do much but go out there and play. We can talk about it all we want, but the truth of the matter is we’re banged up. Everybody goes through a stretch. Everybody has their players and we’ve been playing shorthanded for awhile. We’re just trying to hold on. We still have to do better. We still have a rough stretch. But there’s still time. Everybody is one or two losses out of where they want to be. Luckily we’re in the East. Just gotta get some wins.”
It was a blow for Gibson, who was having one of his more effective games of the season in Miami and has been one of the team’s most importance defenders. That’s been crucial with Joakim Noah lost for the season and Butler out. Cameron Bairstow will start for Gibson as the team’s three top defenders are now out.
“They said the next couple days we’ll reassess it,” said Gibson. “I don’t think I should be out long. I should be hopefully be fine come next game with the amount of days off we got coming up. But we still have to reassess it. It felt real tight and funny for awhile. I just kept playing through it. Last night, it grabbed me. I haven’t felt anything like that for awhile. So I had to come out.
“I was real worried because I like to run,” said Gibson. “When it happened, I was scared at first because it had never happened to me before. But they took me in the back and we did a couple things, tried to see if I could come back. It still wasn’t the way I wanted to play with. I have to be able to guard different people and run how I need to run. So we thought it was best I sat out.”
And so it goes.