Mike Dunleavy: Arrival of Rasual Butler gives Clippers 14-man roster he could live with to open 2009-10 season
Rasual Butler, acquired last week along with cash in a trade that sent a conditional second-round 2016 draft pick to the New Orleans Hornets, stopped by in his first few days in Los Angeles before pledging he'd resume updating his Twitter account.
"Once I leave here," he said, "I’ll be on there the rest of the day."
Mike Dunleavy, the Clippers' coach and general manager, returned to familiar confines and discussed the latest trade in a busy off-season before stressing he may not be done updating his roster.
"I get up in the morning, read what all you guys have to write, see what information you came up with," Dunleavy said. "Anything that makes sense or potentially makes sense, I go from there with working the phones and trying to generate, whether it’s a fabrication or not, into something that might be workable."
As indicated by Butler's inactive Twitter posts since Monday morning and Dunleavy's acknowledgement he'd be comfortable fielding his current 14-man roster to open the 2009-10 season, both are stepping into a new phase to gear up for training camp.
Over lunch with Butler last week, Dunleavy told him he expected him to arrive to training camp in shape and committed to defense. Dunleavy also shared why he brought him to the Clippers, a move Dunleavy says he initially pursued, though the Hornets have been looking to unload cap space for some time. They're expected to save about $8 million with the trade, including Butler's $3.9-million contract and luxury tax implications.
Byron Scott and Pat Riley, both of whom coached Butler with the Hornets and Miami Heat, respectively, shared with Dunleavy the same observations he saw on film: Butler's 6-foot-'7 frame gives him a height advantage to post up against shooting guards. His average of 11.2 points per game, his 43% mark from the field and 39% clip from three-point range provides a dependable shooting option from the perimeter -- something the Clippers lacked, especially in clutch situations.
"I’m very confident in playing in pressure moments of the game," Butler said. "It’s one of my favorite times to play. That’s what the game is for. That’s what you put the hard work in for. I’m not afraid to take last-second shots. I enjoy taking them and I’m confident I can make them."
"That’s always been the case for me. Most of us at this level, you’ve always been the man coming up through the ranks. That opportunity has always been given to me before the NBA. Once I was here and the opportunity was given to do it on this stage, I wasn’t afraid."
Butler, a seven-year veteran, stressed he won't demand that role right away. His arrival adds another option at shooting guard and small forward to go along with Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Ricky Davis and Mardy Collins. Dunleavy remains noncommittal about whether Butler would start, other than he'd play at both shooting guard and small forward.
Although Dunleavy remained open to trades and absorbing the rest of a $7.3-million trade exception they had after shipping Zach Randolph last month to the Memphis Grizzlies, he admitted, "I’m totally comfortable with where we are."
That's because his off-season moves worked out to his liking. He unloaded Randolph's heavy salary and received Quentin Richardson before quickly shipping him to Minnesota for Sebastian Telfair (who will back up point guard Baron Davis), Craig Smith (who will back up power forward Blake Griffin) and Mark Madsen (who will provide leadership in the locker room and maybe a few dance moves). Butler's arrival adds closure to an off-season that focused on acquiring players to fill specific needs.
"Clearly, that was the plan," Dunleavy said.
Whether that changes the Clippers' fortunes after a 19-63 season remain unclear. The new guy, though, is at least on board.
"I think it’s a playoff team," Butler said. "Unfortunately, last year they had a bunch of injuries and couldn’t find a good rhythm as a team. God willing, we won’t get hit with the injury bug this year. With the addition of Blake Griffin and Craig Smith and those guys, the sky is the limit for this organization."
Photo: Rasual Butler shoots against Acie Law on March 9. Photo credit: John Amis / Associated Press.