Bulls guard hurts ankle during opener; might play Sat.

Chicago Bulls: Guard Kirk Hinrich, who sprained his left ankle Wednesday in the Bulls' overtime win over Charlotte, rode a stationary bike the following day and doesn't consider the injury serious.

"I've had bad sprains on my left ankle before, and it's definitely not one of my worst ones," Hinrich told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday. "I'm going to try to practice ... at least do some stuff and see how it feels and hopefully play on Saturday."

Chicago goes on the road to take on the New Jersey Nets on Saturday.

"It's not out of the question" whether Hinrich returns to action at the Meadowlands, Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi told the paper. "He was pretty good today, all things considered. It's an inversion ankle sprain, garden variety. He didn't have a whole lot of swelling, and he was able to bear some weight on it. So we'll just take it day to day and go from there."

Hinrich injured the ankle after making a layup in the third quarter against the Bobcats. He finished with nine points and four assists.

"I just rolled it over and landed on -- I don't even know -- I guess it was Gerald Wallace's foot," Hinrich said. "I felt it pop. I knew about 10, 15 minutes after I sprained it that it wasn't that serious. It was a little bit sore this morning, but I don't look at it as a serious ankle sprain."

Washington Wizards: Forward Caron Butler, who sustained a thigh injury during Washington's 99-96 victory at Toronto on Wednesday, missed practice on Thursday but is hopeful about playing Friday night at New York.

"It's just a matter of getting it to loosen up a little bit so I can move my leg better," Butler told The Washington Post. "That's why I was in a rush to get back in the game after it happened. I knew it was about to start locking up on me as soon as I sat down and cooled off."

Butler scored 11 points and had seven rebounds in Wednesday's victory.

Denver Nuggets: Forward Bryon Russell will be out
four to five months after arthroscopic surgery for torn cartilage
in his right knee.
The Nuggets said Russell, operated on Thursday, tore the medial
meniscus during training camp. He has appeared in one game this
season, scoring three points.

'Slam Dunk One' plane is unveiled

DALLAS -- The airline that has a Shamu plane in its fleet has a new eye-catcher: "Slam Dunk One."

Southwest Airlines unveiled the plane Thursday, along with the NBA. League commissioner David Stern and several retired greats, including Bill Russell and Bill Walton, attended a ceremony at Southwest headquarters that ended with all of them autographing the
outside of the Boeing 737.

Each side of the plane features a giant image of a basketball going through a hoop. Inside, logos of all 30 teams are visible on the outside of the overhead compartments.

This is Southwest's ninth themed aircraft. Others are dedicated to various states, the Ronald McDonald House and the one featuring Shamu of Sea World fame.

"I'm actually proud to be in the company of Shamu the killer whale," Stern said. "I tried losing a few pounds so that comparison would not be made."

The maiden voyage took league officials and three families from the local Ronald McDonald House to Los Angeles for the Lakers-Suns game Thursday night. Soon, the plane will be a regular part of the airline's fleet, rotating through all 61 Southwest stops.

At the ceremony, Walton drew cheers from hundreds of employees by reciting the airline's phone number, and George Gervin got a big hand for mentioning his wife is a retired Southwest employee.

Other former players attending the ceremony were Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins, Bob Lanier and Rebecca Lobo.