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Deng and Butler out tonight as Bulls take on Milwaukee

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While coach Tom Thibodeau reported that both Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler are close to returning to the lineup from their separate ailments, both will miss Tuesday night’s game vs. the Milwaukee Bucks.

Butler has missed the past nine games since suffering a right turf toe injury on Nov. 18. Deng will miss his second straight game, still suffering from soreness and tightness in his left Achilles.

“Both guys are a lot better,” Thibodeau told reporters after the team’s shootaround at the United Center. “They’re close but not quite there yet.”

There is some good news on the injury front for the Bulls as veteran point guard Mike James will be available after suffering a sprained MCL in warmups before last Monday’s triple-overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Thibodeau didn’t reveal if James would assume the backup point guard’s duties in favor of Marquis Teague.

After Thibodeau noted that Butler was ’75 percent’ at Monday’s practice, the starting shooting guard said that he’s about 80 percent now.

“I feel good, though. I think I still have a little bit of a ways to go, but we’re definitely moving in the right direction,” Butler told reporters. “I’m moving a lot better, jumping off of it better. So we’ll just see every day that I wake up, how I’m feeling. I hate sitting out, hate missing games. I always want to play, always want to be out there, going through everything with my guys, my teammates. But they’re just constantly telling me just take my time, make sure I’m back at full strength, so you don’t re-aggravate it or make it worse.

With missing so much time, Thibodeau acknowledged that the time Butler has missed could potentially affect his playing time when he does return.

“I want to see where he is conditioning-wise,” Thibodeau said. “He’s moving a lot better, so that’s a good sign, but we’ll see how it unfolds. Whatever he can give us will be a big plus. He adds a lot to our team. It might not be his normal minutes initially, but he’ll get there.”

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