Bulls hope the Butler can do it along with Augustin


Dec 13

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The Bulls finally are again starting to take shape for the 2013-14 season as Jimmy Butler Friday against the Bucks returned to the starting lineup after missing 11 games with a turf toe injury. Luol Deng remained out, but Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said his return is close.

“We won’t know (how effective Butler can be) until he gets out there,” said Thibodeau before the game. “We want to see first. It’s not just defensively (Butler is important). It’s all areas. He makes us function well. It’s his energy. Obviously he’s a terrific defender, but he’s also very good offensively. He can run the floor, you can post him, he hits open shots, he makes plays, so he adds a lot to the team.”

But Thibodeau also knows with little practice time it could be a tough transition for Butler.

“Basically you saw what Jo (Noah) went through when he missed a month of training camp,” said Thibodeau. “Jimmy is probably a little further ahead because he had part of training camp. He missed 10 days in the middle and he was actually starting to play well when he got hurt again. But at least he has some foundation. He’s taken his time coming back, so I think he’s 100 percent as far as how he feels.”

— Could D.J. Augustin have been a Bull instead of Derrick Rose?

The Bulls newest addition, Augustin, was involved in one of the curiosities of the 2008 NBA draft, which was one of the best in recent years.

Augustin was selected ninth by the Charlotte Bobcats. That was the draft the Bulls who had the ninth best odds in the lottery ended up getting the No. 1 pick and Derrick Rose.

It’s turned out to be a strong draft with Russell Westbrook at No. 4, Kevin Love at No. 5, Danilo Gallinari No. 6, Eric Gordon No. 7, Brook Lopez No. 10, twin brother Robin at No. 15, Roy Hibbert No. 17, J.J. Hickson No. 19, Serge Ibaka No. 24, Nicolas Batum No. 25 and George Hill No. 26. Had the Bulls remained at No. 9, where they were supposed to pick, they may have taken Lopez, though they did have Joakim Noah and Brad Miller. Though given the Bulls had only Kirk Hinrich at point guard, it’s possible they would have selected Augustin out of the U. of Texas and regarded as a good shooter. There were contract issues with Ben Gordon then and the chance of losing him as a free agent, which they did.

It was a frantic draft night as Augustin had been told he was going No. 11 to the Pacers, who then had a trade for him. Moments before the draft, the Bobcats told Lopez’ representatives they were taking him. But coach Larry Brown succeeded in a last ditch appeal literally a minute before the pick arguing for Augustin. The Bobcats did have some success with Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace and made the playoffs with Augustin playing with Ray Felton. But Brown left to start the 2010-11 season and the team began a decline to the bottom of the East. Augustin was let go after the 2011-12 season and went to the Pacers and the Raptors.

“I was supposed to go to Indiana,” Augustin recalled before playing Milwaukee. “And they were going to trade me to Portland or Sacramento. I didn’t even work out for Charlotte. We had some good teams there, but in the NBA sometimes you just move on.”

As for Augustin, Thibodeau said he answers a need for shooting.

“His shooting is something we really need,” said Thibodeau. “The way teams have collapsed on us we need somebody who can hit an open shot.” I think the two points guards together has worked well for us, so that could happen, and with Kirk you can play him off the ball, too. You can play him at the two so that gives you a lot of flexibility.

“He’s had a mix,” Thibodeau said of Augustin’s NBA career. “I thought he did a good job under Larry Brown. I thought he played very well in Charlotte for awhile. Then he’s bounced around, been up and down. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery. I like the fact that he’s young and that he started a number of games in this league. He’s shown he can hit a three. Those two things are a big plus. He appears to be motivated, so hopefully it works out.”

Thibodeau added that in some respects Augustin is a similar player to Nate Robinson.

“You look at the guys we’ve had in the past that have filled that role, when you look at C.J. Watson, John Lucas, Nate, they were all guys that could effectively play in a pick-and-roll. And I think D.J. can do that,” said Thibodeau. “He’ll also provide some space when the ball goes into the post. The three is something we want to try and get back to, and I think he can provide that.”

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