New Orleans will miss you, Rasual Butler. We’ll miss your resilience. We’ll miss your indestructibility. We’ll miss you because of all the things I said in this post I wrote in March.
So he didn’t fly of his own volition. He was traded to the Clippers today for a 2nd round pick. It was a move that I called “pulling a Marcus Camby.” (Link, for those of you were living under a rock this time last summer. Oh, and sorry to ruin the end of the movie for you, but Denver lived.) By that I mean, he was a starter, he did his job well, and he was traded to save the team $8 million. For the sole reason that we have other guys on the roster who are capable of taking up the slack at his position. Is it a salary dump? Of course. Is it a bad move because it’s a salary dump? No.
I certainly am puzzled by people who are confused by this deal, as well as people who think it in any way points to “OMG THE HORNETS ARE TOO CHEAP TO EVER PUT A WINNING TEAM AROUND CHRIS PAUL HE NEEDS TO LEAVE”. My number one assumption going into this offseason was that either Rasual Butler or Mo Pete would be moved. Were there really people who didn’t think so? You have two guys who are the same age, who play the same position, who have roughly the same stats at that position, who play the same role in the offense of the #5 scoring option who gets open threes because people are looking at Peja/CP/DWest, who are both long all-right defenders, who’ve each been the starter 1 out of the 2 last seasons. I would have been much more surprised if they were both on the roster in October.
Is it fair to whichever guy doesn’t end up starting, to be on the team and not playing the role you want? Is it fair to the team, to ask them to pay $4M-6.5M salaries to two guys who are interchangeable, when they’re over the luxury tax? Is it fair to Marcus Thornton, to light up summer league and sit in a suit all year? I mean, these are legitimate questions.
You know I was all about being the spearhead of the “FREE MO PETE” movement last year. But that was never a knock on Rasual Butler. (OK, it was a knock on Devin Brown, but we all know about that so I won’t go into it here.) Butler did a great job. He was the only guy on the team who didn’t miss games because he was hurt. (Even Posey, the iron man runner-up, had to sit a few out at the end.) Last year, that was so huge. At the Hive’s statistical analysis in the second half of the season showed that Butler slightly out-Mo Pete’d Mo Pete at being the starting shooting guard. But a lot of us remember 2007-08, when Peterson was the starter and ‘Sual was in DNP-CD limbo in a suit at the end of the bench because his shot had completely deserted him. It was one year ago, guys. There’s no need for despair here. Mo’ll be fine. The only gamble here is knowing he won’t have an NBA tested backup (well, unless you count De–). But even if Thornton’s clueless, surely one of Peja/Posey/Wright can swing on over.
What does this all add up to? The Hornets have essentially saved $10 million this summer, through this and the TC trade, and are now only over the luxury tax by about $3.8 million. And they’ve managed to do this… arguably without getting worse. I don’t know about you folks, but I suspect the ol’ GM is not as think as y’all stupid he is. No?
Man, this one still stings. In a personal way more than a basketball way. Because all the guys on this team grow on me and it sucks to have to let them go. Strangely, the thing that brings it home to me more than anything else is when I get down to the end of the post… and I realize this is the last time I’m ever going to use the “Bop” tag. But it stings because this isn’t ‘Sual’s fault. He and Mo just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time– that is, the same place– Mo’s contract is longer and less attractive– it’s math. But I hope it doesn’t diminish the year he had in 2008-09. The fact that he was a rock for us when the team needed one.
This was a guy who people made fun of for having a terrible year and missing shot after shot. Sit for a moment and try to imagine what that must have been like: your team has its best season in history, while you’re in a suit having your worst. Watching. But this is a guy who took that and worked. Who came back stronger, better. Who won a starting spot. In the end, that’s why saying goodbye to Rasual Butler doesn’t seem right. In the end, what more could you have asked of him?
“And God help you if you are a phoenix
And you dare to rise up from the ash
A thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
While you are just flying past…”