Jimmy Butler's MRI reveals a strain

CHICAGO – Although Jimmy Butler did not participate in practice Wednesday, all the news was not bad when it came to his injured right shoulder.

An MRI revealed that Butler has nothing more serious than a strain after he aggravated an injury Tuesday night that he first suffered in Sunday’s game against the Orlando Magic.

Butler’s status for Thursday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers remains unknown, according to coach Tom Thibodeau. Butler was not available for comment Wednesday, although he was at the Bulls’ practice facility receiving treatment.

“It’s just sore,” Thibodeau said. “There’s a lot of contact in an NBA game.”

Butler leads the Bulls in minutes per game at 39.3, and his commitment to defense makes his time on the court that much more grueling.

“That’s what you’re supposed to do; it’s his job,” Thibodeau said of Butler’s all-out style. “It shouldn’t be unusual. That’s what everyone should be doing. If you’re playing to win, you know, the NBA, it’s contact, it’s body on body. There’s no getting around that.”

Butler remains scheduled to participate in Saturday’s All-Star Skills Challenge and in Sunday’s All-Star Game in New York City.

Thibodeau mourns Tark

Thibodeau remembered Jerry Tarkanian fondly, especially from the time the two worked together for a short stint with the San Antonio Spurs in the early 1990s. Tarkanian died Wednesday at age 84.

“An all-time great coach, great person and believed in giving people second chances,” Thibodeau said. “The run that he had throughout, to win the way he won his entire career, says how great he is. I had an opportunity to coach Larry Johnson and was around a lot of players who played for him. The way they talked about him and the way he cared about them, even when they were done playing, tells you a lot about him.”

Gasol is LeBron foe, then friend

Bulls forward Pau Gasol has a unique opportunity this week, first to start a game against LeBron James and then start a game with him.

The Bulls play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday. On Sunday, Gasol and James will start for the East squad at the All-Star Game.

“Right now I see him as an opponent and a team that I want to beat badly, that we need to beat badly as a team,” Gasol said after practice Wednesday. “They're a direct opponent and threat. They play tonight, this will be a back-to-back for them tomorrow, so we've got to make sure we get it done.”

The Bulls are tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference at 33-20, but the Cavaliers are rising fast in fifth place at 32-21.

“They've won 13 out of 14, right?” Gasol said. “They're playing well. They have a lot of threats out there. We've just got to play them tough. We know who they are and what they do.”

This and that

Kirk Hinrich (turf toe) did not participate in practice Wednesday and is not expected to play against the Cavaliers on Thursday. ... Mike Dunleavy, who returned to action Tuesday after missing 19 games with an injured right ankle, was feeling fine and is expected to play Thursday.