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Bulls' Jimmy Butler Nearing His Return

By Cody Westerlund--

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Sidelined since suffering a strained left knee on Feb. 5, Bulls wing Jimmy Butler participated in most all of Friday's practice and seemed to hint that he'll be returning Saturday night against star James Harden and the Rockets after missing the past 11 games.

"My only concern right now is to go get a haircut," Butler said. "Because I need one. I got to look good for tomorrow night.

"Because I'm pretty sure James is going to have his hair cut. So I'm going to have mine cut too."

Jokes aside, Butler's availability will be determined with how his body responds Saturday. While Butler maintained he felt "good" in and after practice and coach Fred Hoiberg's reviews were hopeful, Butler would only call it "a possibility" that he'll return to the lineup.

"It's a good question, but I do not know," said Butler, who's averaging a team-high 22.4 points.

Having allowed at least 100 points in 15 consecutive games and lost four in a row, the Bulls badly need Butler back.

"He always defends the other team's best perimeter player, and we have had, obviously, issues on that side of the floor," Hoiberg said. "When you can stay in front of the ball and guard the other team's best player like Jimmy can do, it helps."

The Bulls could use Taj Gibson too. He missed his first game of the year Wednesday in a loss at Orlando as he deals with a right hamstring injury. Hoiberg called him "day to day" and a final decision on his status will be made later Saturday as well.

"He's another guy that can defend," Hoiberg said of Gibson. "He's one of our top defenders. When you have Jimmy out of the lineup and Jo obviously has been out a lineup and you have Taj out of the lineup, you know, we've struggled. We've struggled in that area. Hopefully to get he and Jimmy on the floor together, I think, would definitely be a step in the right direction."

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