Rasual Butler shows no signs of retiring

Butler
Butler
Posted: July 11, 2013

ORLANDO - The hairline has receded a bit, the face is a little fuller and shows some age lines, but the jump shot is still as smooth as a baby's bottom. And that, Rasual Butler says, is what will get him back into the NBA after a frustrating season away.

The Roman Catholic and La Salle product is now showing off his patented jumper in the Orlando Summer Pro League as a member of the Indiana Pacers. Butler, now 34 and by far the oldest player participating, had his steady job of 10 years taken away from him last season when no NBA team added him to the roster. Instead, the veteran of almost 700 games, including playoffs, in the world's best league found himself playing in the NBA Development League.

He averaged 17.8 points for the Tulsa 66ers in 31 games, grabbed 5.1 rebounds and made 60 three-pointers. He was named the league's impact player of the year as the team won 18 of 31 games after he joined.

But if the subject of retiring floats into the conversation, the affable Butler turns feisty. The thought does not enter his head, and his body, he says, hasn't given him any reason to entertain the thought of life after basketball.

"No, I don't," Butler sternly said when asked whether basketball afterlife is something he thinks about. "I feel like this is the part of the process right now, having been out of the league for a year now. If this is what it takes for me to ultimately get back to what I want to do, I'm all right with that."

It shows. Playing with - and against - players as much as 15 years younger, Butler fits right in. He is a cheerleader on the bench, a sounding board, a giver of advice. When he's on the floor, he still runs around screens like a teenager on the playgrounds of Philly, hands set out in front of him for the catch, left foot planted, so he can swing up his right foot as he gets ready to launch a jumper that has converted 804 NBA threes, including playoffs.

In a game against the Boston Celtics yesterday, Butler showed that deadly jumper a few times, nailing a three on one possession, and, then, as he set to fire another on the next, juked a defender with a pump fake before pulling up from 15 and swishing it. If there were any doubts about his legs, they were answered when he chased down Boston point guard Phil Pressey on a breakaway and blocked his layup. He finished with seven points and three rebounds in 12 minutes. It was a similar performance to many he's put together in the NBA. Still, here he is with all these youngsters, trying to open some eyes.

"I needed to play somewhere, be visible, that's what this is about, being visible," he said. "People can see that I'm still mobile, I can move around the court, I haven't lost a step, and I can still shoot the ball."

He insists his game hasn't changed since he was chosen with the 53rd overall pick by the Miami Heat in the 2002 draft. He has become wiser about the league, more knowledgeable about the type of player he has to be.

"I understand what my role is in this league," Butler said. "I am a specialist, a shooter, a guy that can defend and rebound. I can do other things, but that's my niche in the league. I've just got to stick to that and let people know that you can still do it. I've always had to prove myself.

"I've been a second-round pick ever since I came into the league, so I had to prove myself coming in. It's something that I'm used to. I don't mind it, it's a good challenge."

Summer league notes

The Sixers (0-2) had off yesterday. They face Oklahoma City at 1 today . . . Rasheed Wallace was in the gym, decked out in a Detroit Pistons golf shirt and shorts and a Phillies baseball cap. He has been named to coach Maurice Cheeks' staff . . . Boston's Kelly Olynyk, from Gonzaga, had 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists in Boston's 76-74 win over Indiana.


On Twitter: @BobCooney76

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