'Pain free' Mike Dunleavy feeling good as his return inches closer

After missing all of the 2015-16 season thus far, Bulls swingman Mike Dunleavy says he's feeling good about his return to the court in the D-League. Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Chicago Bulls swingman Mike Dunleavy says he is "pain free" and is hopeful to return to game action soon after missing all year because of offseason back surgery.

Dunleavy, who has started taking contact in practice since late last week, will practice with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the Golden State Warriors' D-League affiliate, on Tuesday and Wednesday to get some reps in as the Bulls continue their seven-game West Coast trip.

"I'm getting there," Dunleavy said following Saturday's practice. "I feel good. I'm getting real close. I'm going to spend some time down there next week with the D-League team, some practices. Try to get a little more rhythm and repetition because obviously our team is playing too many games. Gotta get that done and then see where we're at."

Dunleavy didn't rule out playing before the All-Star break, but has been cautious since the beginning of training camp to give an exact timeline on his return. The 14-year veteran will only return when he feels he's ready.

"Anything's possible," Dunleavy said. "The big thing for me is getting through these two practices down there with those guys and see where I'm at and how I feel and go from there."

In other Bulls injury-related news, coach Fred Hoiberg said Kirk Hinrich is expected to play Sunday after missing the past five games because of a left quad contusion.

Hoiberg said Jimmy Butler suffered an ankle injury against the Los Angeles Lakers in Thursday night's win. He did not do much on Saturday, but is expected to play Sunday against the Clippers. Hoiberg also noted he will start the game out the same way as he did Thursday, which means veteran E'Twaun Moore remains in the starting five.