Saturday’s game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Chicago Bulls marks the return of Zach LaVine to the Twin Cities for the first time in a different uniform. But, in the wake of Jimmy Butler’s knee injury, circumstances have changed considerably when it comes to the national focus of the evening.
While the two players will be forever linked as a result of the trade that send Butler to Minnesota in exchange for a package headlined by LaVine, the injury to one of the league’s more durable players grabbed headlines across the NBA, even if the initial prognosis was far from the worst-case scenario for both Butler and the Wolves.
In advance of the contest, though, LaVine shared his thoughts on Butler’s injury with Nick Friedell of ESPN and, given that he recently returned from a year-long absence with a knee ailment of his own, the 22-year-old’s views are especially relevant.
“It’s scary. I wish him the best. You never want to see that happen to anybody, especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team. It’s terrible. There’s been so many injuries around the NBA, we’re tying to figure out what’s going on, but it’s scary. You don’t know what’s going on. You know you hurt yourself, but you don’t know how bad. You think you’re good — especially if you’re a tough-minded person, you try to get through it. I saw him on the ground trying to get up and stuff like that. Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude, so I think thoughts and prayers from everybody are going out to him.”
LaVine suffered a torn ACL and, while Butler’s issue isn’t necessarily that severe, he is expected to miss significant time and will face an uphill battle with rehab and recovery. Response around the league has been upbeat under the circumstances and, as LaVine notes, Butler is considered to be a “tough dude” by virtually everyone, with his durability on full display to the tune of a league-leading minutes total.
Still, Butler will now be forced to battle with an injury that can take significant time to fully heal. In the meantime, he can take solace in players like LaVine who have emerged on the other side with experience to share with colleagues in the future.