The Eastern Conference is up for grabs. The Cleveland Cavaliers might be holding on to the top spot, but their grip is getting loose, leaving the potential for other teams to make a run heading into the final stretch of the season. The Chicago Bulls are one of those teams with eyes on the playoffs, but health is a big concern with both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler sitting out.
Rose missed his third straight game with hamstring tendinitis and the Chicago Bulls are not certain when he will return, according to ESPN's Nick Friedell. Rose has been sitting with the issue, saying he is still sore. The Bulls were hoping this would be a short-term issue, but the injury continues to linger, which is hurting the Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings. Head coach Fred Hoibeg told the media that Rose would sit out until he felt better and was moving better.
"A lot of it's based on feel," said Hoiberg via ESPN. "He wasn't moving around great. Better than the last couple days, but he's still got a pretty good limp. We got him some conditioning and we really wanted to push him and test it, so we did some full-court conditioning, a lot of shooting drills. He got through a lot of it, but again, he got pretty sore at the end and still isn't able to explode off that leg. So just not quite ready yet."
Rose is trying to downplay the issue as being serious. The point guard told the Chicago Sun-Times that he is just being smart with the injury and did not intend to rush back until he felt fully healthy.
At this point, Butler could return faster than Rose does.
The shooting guard underwent an MRI on his healing knee injury and it offered up no new surprises, according to Friedell. Butler suffered the knee sprain back on Feb. 5 and still has some swelling and pain in the injured area. The Bulls are hopeful that he can return sooner rather than later, but Butler has yet to really test the status of his knee.
"We'll get more of an idea after he tests it once he gets on the floor and does some two-on-two, three-on-three, work him up to some five-on-five. Right now it's too early to tell," Hoiberg said via the Chicago Sun-Times.
Too early could mean Butler is not expected back anytime soon. The Bulls are capitalizing off the improved play of Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, but how long that can last is anyone's guess. The Bulls need their two stars back on the court.