The Timberwolves suffered a potentially devastating loss on Friday night when All-Star guard Jimmy Butler suffered an injury to his right knee late in the third quarter of a 120-102 loss at Houston.
Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves president of basketball operations and coach, told reporters that Butler had been examined by Rockets team doctors and would have an MRI performed on Saturday. A reporter said Butler had undergone an X-ray in Houston, but Thibodeau said he was unaware of that and refused to speculate on just how serious the injury might be.
“Until they do the MRI, it’s speculating,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll know more (on Saturday).”
Butler had wrestled the ball away from Nene Hilario in the paint and passed to Taj Gibson as he planted his leg. Butler’s knee seemed to give as he did so and he fell to the court.
Butler remained on the floor as concerned players from both teams checked on him and he was eventually helped to the locker room. He could not put any weight on his right leg.
Jimmy Butler needed to be helped off the court, really hard to tell what happened to his knee pic.twitter.com/sQ5GsSWGqq
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) February 24, 2018
Butler, acquired from the Bulls during the offseason, is one of the biggest reasons the Wolves entered Friday 11 games over .500 and in fourth place in the Western Conference standings. The Wolves, who have 20 games remaining in the regular season, have not made the playoffs in 13 seasons.
Butler, who this season was named to the NBA All-Star Game for the fourth time, entered Friday leading the Wolves with 22.4 points per game. His five assists were second on the team and his 5.5 rebounds were third. He led the NBA in minutes played per game at 37.3 and was ninth in the league in total minutes.
Thibodeau said he talked to Butler briefly after the game and that the veteran’s spirits were “fine.”
“You just hope it’s not bad,” Thibodeau said.
The Wolves will play host to Butler’s former team, the Bulls, on Saturday night. The Wolves got Butler from Chicago in a draft-night trade, sending Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick (Lauri Markkanen) to the Bulls. Minnesota also acquired the Bulls’ first-round pick, Justin Patton, who went 16th overall.
Thibodeau, in his second season with the Wolves, had coached Butler in Chicago and wanted to bring the star player to Minnesota for his ability both on offense and defense.
“I don’t want to speculate on what it might be,” Thibodeau said of Butler’s injury. “(You) just hope for the best.”