Bulls hope Rasual Butler is lucky 13


Mar 2

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Rasual Butler, a veteran shooting guard waived this week by the Clippers, will be signed by the Bulls, league sources confirmed Wednesday.

Butler, a 6-7 nine year NBA veteran, is expected to sign a contract for the rest of the season and join the Bulls in Orlando Thursday in time for Friday’s game with the Magic.

Although Butler averaged 11.9 points per game for the Clippers last season while making 145 three pointers, he is expected to be guard insurance for the Bulls at this point.

It is expected that Keith Bogans will remain the starting shooting guard the rest of the season with Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver as backups. But as a big guard who can defend and is known to be willing to take big shots, Butler could fill in under various circumstances as a designated shooter or defender.

Butler played all 82 games the last two seasons for the Clippers and Hornets and was playing regularly with the Clippers this season until late December when the Clippers were 8-22. Clippers management then reportedly told coach Vinny Del Negro to play their young players, and Butler was benched and played just occasional minutes at the end of games.

Butler had been interested in joining the Bulls if he could get his release in a buyout, and the Bulls were not only interested because of his ability to shoot and defend but his attitude. Butler never complained or made an issue of his benching for the franchise’s future players.

Clippers’ staff also said Butler remained a hard worker, always coming to practice early and putting in extra time. The Bulls’ chemistry has been one of their major strengths and the feeling is Butler will fit in well no matter his role.

From Butler’s standpoint, those close to him feel given the Bulls uncertainty in the backcourt he might have a chance to stick with the team after this season depending on the circumstances with the labor situation. The feeling is he can get a good look with a team that might need help at his position.

Butler, 31, played at LaSalle for four years and was a second round draft pick of the Miami Heat in 2002. He played three seasons for Miami, where he was a favorite of Pat Riley, then two seasons with Oklahoma City, two with New Orleans and last season with the Clippers. He was one of the players the Hornets gave up who Chris Paul was upset to see leave after he replaced an injured Morris Peterson.

In Butler’s season with New Orleans, he shot almost 40 percent on three pointers. He is a career 36.1 percent three point shooter and was shooting 32.6 percent on threes this season. Butler has a career scoring average of 8.6 points per game, averaging in double figures three different seasons. He is regarded as a streak shooter.

He is considered a physical defender and probably was the Clippers’ best perimeter defender, though he wasn’t felt to be a part of their future and thus was expendable for a team without playoff chances this season.

Several teams had been interested in Butler, sources said, including the Mavs–who apparently will add Corey Brewer–Thunder, Hawks and Celtics.

The Bulls are believed to have looked at several players who were waived and eligible to be signed for the playoffs. Brewer apparently got a multi-year commitment from the Mavs, who had their mid level exception available. The Bulls by being under the salary cap last summer had no exceptions.

Although Brewer is regarded as a good defender, he isn’t a particularly good shooter or ballhandler to beat defenders off the dribble. Thus, he would seem to be more duplication of Brewer and less likely to play for the Bulls.

It’s likely given how well the Bulls have played this season and given coach Tom Thibodeau is using a 10-player rotation with defined roles that he will make any significant personnel changes in the rotation or minutes at this time.

Of course, that can change with injuries. Plus, after the trade of James Johnson for a draft pick, the Bulls’ roster was down to 12. League rules require at least a 13-player roster.

Butler also has playoff experience with the Heat and Hornets and averaged 10.6 and shot 52.6 percent on threes in the 2009 playoffs for New Orleans. In 27 playoff games, Butler has shot 41.4 percent on threes.

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