Chicago Bulls small forward Luol Deng has averaged 37 or more minutes per game each of the last three seasons. With Deng getting a night off to rest a groin injury in Chicago's 82-75 preseason loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday, replacement Jimmy Butler stepped right into Deng's role, playing the entire 48 minutes.
Butler had nine points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal and only attempted four shots in those 48 minutes, but much like Deng, his contributions were more valuable than what showed up statistically. Aggrey Sam of Comcast Sports Net reports Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was pleased with the performance:
"I thought he played hard the whole game. I thought his defense was very good. I thought he got the ball into the post very well in the first half. I thought he moved well without the ball. He got to a cutting game that he was very effective at. He did a lot of good things for us," said Thibodeau.
Thibodeau also noted that he could get away with playing Butler big minutes because Butler has worked hard on his conditioning this offseason. Butler, who said he'd definitely "be in the Whirlpool tomorrow," was coming off a 1-for-11 performance in the team's preseason opener against Memphis.