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Archive for the ‘ Mmmm-Bop! ’ Category

The Phoenix Flies

By on August 12, 2009

86012941_LAM035_NUGGETS_HORNETSNew 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…”

How bout you guys?

I thought this one was over when Dwyane Wade went to the free throw line. Then I thought it was over when Paul and Butler screwed up the pass at the top of the circle. The ball looked like it was going to bounce out of bounds. I almost looked away from the TV because Butler’s shot, after he managed to corral it, looked so bad. Then you saw the arc, and you realized it didn’t look bad, it looked good. How welcome were Peja’s 24 points? How crazy was David “Nah, I’ll just beat you now” West’s 8 point OT, after missing jumper after jumper all game? How driven was Chris Paul?

Oh, team. Whenever I think you’re out of it…

FAN UP, New Orleans! We’re in!!

Chris Paul knows Rasual Butler is The Man

“CP came up to me after the ball went in and told me, ‘We’re going to win the game for you now."

The Phoenix rises

This is a public service announcement for the national basketball media. You are allowed to talk about Rasual Butler. No, seriously. I officially give you permission.

I’ve been mulling over this post in my mind for some time, thinking, “Damn, we should really do a post on the resurgence of ‘Sual this year,” but the moment it leapt to the forefront of our priority list was when I was watching the NBA on TNT last week. I’ve already ranted a bit on Charles Barkley’s rather uninformed comments about the team, but what really got me was how dismissive he was of Butler. Actually, he didn’t even seem to know that he was starting for the Hornets. And never mind the disparaging snarky comments I’ve heard from several different announcing teams, “Well, I guess you have to wonder with the Hornets how far you’re going to get when you have Rasual Butler starting, ho ho ho.”

OK, freeze. Rewind.

Last season around this time was when Byron Scott finally gave up on Butler. Hornets fans breathed a sigh of relief. Finally we could stop cringing as #45 launched up brick after brick. It was almost inexplicable, how a player’s shot could so thoroughly desert him. It was like Devin Brown in November/December of this season, but worse. (If you want a full perspective on how bad I am talking about, at one point Brown was shooting 15% from three. So we are talking bad.) Butler didn’t even suit up for the playoffs. He only played in 51 games, for an average of 17 minutes per game, most of those minutes in the beginning of the season before it became apparent how brutally awful of a year he was having. He averaged 4.9 points per game over the course of his truncated season. Add an offseason gun arrest into the mix, and Hornets fans were left wondering if there was a way to trade a guy who had zero value and made $3.6 million.

OK, stop. Fast forward.

In 2008-09 the man Hornets fans have begun to refer to as “The Phoenix” is starting for the Hornets. (Helpful hint to the national media, who seem to be having trouble locating him: He is the dude out in the corner who is not Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler, or Peja Stojakovic.) He plays a career high 30 minutes a game and averages 11.2 points. The fact is, Rasual Butler is doing a better job than Morris Peterson (8.0 PPG) ever did last season. And in 2009, he has absolutely been lighting it up.

Check this: Over the Hornets’ last 10 games, ‘Sual Bop is averaging 18.2 points per game on .496 shooting. Your resident fact checka is here to inform you that that’s a better percentage than Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen are currently shooting over the same 10 game split.

So he’s not one of the top shooting guards in the league. Like, whoo. Who does your team start at the 2? OK, don’t answer that question. I realize the Hornets have a different situation than many NBA teams. The fact is that not every team has a Chris Paul, whereas there are many dominant shooting guards in the league. Of course if you’ve got one, the offense is going to be run through him. So when you go to evaluate a guy like Rasual Butler, who effectively plays the role of the 4th or 5th wheel on the Hornets, as opposed to other 2 guards who are a bigger part of the offense, you will need to make some adjustments. At the Hive has done the numbers on this, analyzing where Butler fits in with other shooting guards when you adjust for usage rate. (The answer is 2nd in the league, behind Utah’s Ronnie Brewer, making ‘Sual a pretty efficient dude for the touches he gets.)

Too bad he’s like the Invisible Man over here.

I’m not asking you to proclaim him the next big star or anything like that. I’m just asking you to recognize that here’s a guy who, at the age of 29, is quietly playing the best basketball of his life. But you know, maybe it’s OK that everyone’s not talking about Rasual Butler. You just go right ahead and leave him open to swish shots over your head. Maybe it’s enough that Hornets fans recognize and appreciate him. And honestly, we might understand him a little more, and on a little deeper level, than the average NBA observer anyway. His success this year, while uplifting, means more to us than to you.

In New Orleans, we know a little something about rising from the ashes.

Everyday Heroes

By on February 9, 2009

“We have enough in this locker room to get the job done; we just have to find a way to get it done. A lot of us in this locker room, from myself, to Rasual, to Mo Pete, to Ryan Bowen, to Devin Brown, we’ve always heard, ‘You can’t.’ We’re hearing the same thing now, that we can’t get the job done and we don’t have enough. I know for myself and other guys, that just serves as motivation for all of us.”

- Antonio Daniels

The Hornets didn’t have Chris Paul. They didn’t have Tyson Chandler, their starting center and only seven footer, or Morris Peterson, a solid backup who was a starter last season. And, because he was ejected in the 2nd quarter with a Flagrant 2, they didn’t have David West.

Peja didn’t shoot particularly well. Neither did Posey.

So they lost tonight, right?

Nope, and this win was 100% due to a guy who was a constant DNP-CD at the end of last season, and two other guys I have been mercilessly ragging on all year.

You say, “Oh, it was just the T Wolves.” Bullshit. The Wolves should have killed us on size alone with the lineup we rolled out tonight. “Haha, what Hornets bench? It’s an insult to call those guys a bench.” You’re goddamn straight it is. ‘Cause they’re a bunch of warriors. It’s like, don’t even demean them by calling them a bench.

But don’t listen to me. Ask Sean Marks (18-5), Devin Brown (14 pts), and ‘Sual Butler (23-8).

There are wins that have an emotional resonance, like when the Hornets came back to beat the Spurs on the home floor, like they failed to do in Game 7 last May. There are wins that put you on top of the world and make you jump around your living room, like in LA last month. There are wins that stave off the doubts, like the one Friday against the Raptors, and the ones the week both West and Chandler were out. And then there is the rare win that makes you realize it doesn’t matter if your team is built to win a championship or not… the only thing that matters at the end of the night is that you’re thankful these guys are the ones who wear your address on the front of their shirts.

That was this win.

Mo & Pose & Sual

By on October 31, 2008

We thought it was time to bust this out again.

Our man Mo Pete was on a mission last night to prove that, not only can he nail threes, he’s got moves. Come on, Byron, I know he’s not D-West or anything, and I know he’s not gonna always have a game like that, and I know Posey is awesome (we’ll get to that in a sec), but let the man drive more. See how fun that was. Peterson led the Hornets with 21 points. And that one shot he made (the first and-1) was pretty… well, pretty. Mo Pete is the starter that everyone hates on, just because he’s not one of the “Big Four.” Well, guess what. We appreciate your work, Mo! You just keep on doing what you do.

Chris Paul was again routinely statistically great (while, in the paradox that we in New Orleans are lucky to have, not actually looking like he was having a standout game), and Peja was leading the team with 20 pts before he turned his ankle early in the fourth quarter. But the credit for this win really belongs to some guys who are the dark horses of this Hornets team.

The bench scored 15 points in the 4th quarter. I mean, yeah, it consisted of James Posey and Rasual Butler trading dagger-to-the-heart threes, but still. That’s something it would be great to have, just in case it’s needed. And it was needed. Tyson Chandler didn’t play, and the team looked sort of lost in the first part of the 4th quarter after Peja went down. The Suns had chipped away at what was at one point a 16 point lead. Then Posey opened up the 3-fest, and it was just a catalyst moment. Rasual Butler… I thought he was a waste of space last year when Byron Scott kept giving him chance after chance and he put up cringe-worthy missed threes. But it’s heart-warming and redemptive and cool and all those things to see him looking this good early, mostly because he’s tall enough to cause problems for other teams as well as shoot. At this point I have to recognize that nasty block he had late in the game.

So, that leaves James Posey. Everyone else is saying they have a man crush. But I’m a girl. So I guess I just have flat-out lust for #41′s mad clutch skills. Go team. I loved Posey’s interview with Craig Sager, by the way. “It was a business decision.” Which is athlete code for, “I came for the money.” So basically you’re saying you’re a cold-hearted mercenary killer………………. I have approximately zero problem with that.

BACK ROW SIGNAGE: It’s been suggested by a bunch of people that our opening night sign be something Posey-related. So if you can figure out a way to say something clever about NOLA welcoming Posey without actually using too many words, please leave a suggestion in the comments. I’m gonna get busy with the paint this afternoon (um, please do not be picturing anything too creepy here).

Mmmmm-oops!

By on June 28, 2008

So what the hell is happening with Rasual Butler? And how will the Hornets react? How does a guy go from being a key bench player, a sometimes starter, to the guy wearing a suit, the position on the end of the bench that as early as the beginning of this season was reserved for rookies who’d barely seen any time, if at all, on an NBA floor.

Butler keeping it realA season over and gone and now he’s the one sitting in the back of an SUV, a gun on the floor, the cops coming for him, and him seeing how low he’s fallen. While I give Rasual a lot of credit for self-cognizance, it’s nonetheless a haunting image of personal tragedy. Thereafter, part of Coach Scott’s response to the situation was: “he had some personal problems [this year] that were going on that kind of caused him not to be with us, so to speak, and all that affected him.” Hmmm. It was the first I heard of it. While I feel for Rasual, I have to wonder how the team will react. They’re gearing up to win a championship. And no matter Byron’s relationship with him, it’s Bower, Shinn, and the team’s lawyers who will decide the response.

We don’t know what Butler’s specific contract says, but section 16(a) of the Uniform Player Contract provides:

The Team may terminate this Contract upon written notice to the Player if the Player shall: (i) at any time, fail, refuse, or neglect to conform his personal conduct to standards of good citizenship, good moral character (defined here to mean not engaging in acts of moral turpitude, whether or not such acts would constitute a crime).

Section 16(g) provides:

Upon any termination of this Contract by the Player, all pay Compensation shall cease on the date of termination, Team to pay the Player’s Compensation to said date.

Rumor mills said the team had been looking to shop Rasual and his remaining two years and $7.5 mil for quite a while. Could this be the easy out? The trickiest part, of course is proof. You can’t just drop a guy if you don’t know for sure he did something wrong. He’s accused of waving a gun after an altercation at a group of men and cocking the hammer back. Butler said he didn’t do anything wrong, and specifically denied cocking it at anyone. But was he waving it around? Did he pull it out? We need also to understand the context. Was he fooling around, defending himself, or just straight thugging? These are key questions that the team will need answers to if they’re going to take that much money away from him. The last thing they want to do is get in a lawsuit with him over whether his termination was wrongful under his contract. But if they can justify it, it would help their salary cap situation right? Fill his spot with someone like Adam Haluska, Shaun Pruitt, or some other undrafted free agent who they can pay something more like $400,000 a year. Pretty good bargain for someone who wasn’t getting any burn anyway.

He holds his fate in his hands…On the other hand, do the Hornets have a responsibility to help him if he is having personal problems? The one answer, as suggested above, is no. It’s a business. And that’s how it is. Cutthroat. But this year we’ve seen a Hornets team that became more than just a team; they became a family. They were devastated when they lost Bobby midseason, but were able to turn around and welcome Mike James and Bonzi with open arms. So how would they react if Butler was cut? Would they blame Rasual? Would they blame the management? Would it change how the team views each other and the bonds they share? What do they know about Rasual’s off-the court issues to which Byron alluded? There are also the facts that Rasual is a team player, taking his benching with class, and being generally supportive of the team’s direction. He also reportedly has done plenty of good works, like flying supplies to Africa at his own cost.

Only the team knows what they’re going to do in free agency. But if cutting Butler under the conduct clause gets us room to bring in Corey Maggette, do it. Monta Ellis, sure. If it will completely push us into contention for a title, do it. Because to bring in someone equally troubled, and not necessarily a good fit, like Ron Artest, would be hypocritical; as would it be cut Rasual to bring in someone who’s unproven and/or unreliable, like Ben Gordon. What I’m saying is that if we cut Rasual, we better get our money’s worth, not straddle ourselves with debt on a stupid risk. Sure take anyone on a $5 mil mid-level exception, but that’s a different story. I guess what I’m really saying is that cutting a guy who is having personal problems for making a stupid mistake is not the best moral choice, and if you’re going to cross that line, you better be sure it’s worth it.

I expect the Hornets to go slow. But I feel for Rasual. I really do. Without more information, though, I feel like I should give him the benefit of the doubt. I believe he did a dumb thing and regrets it. I know some people have already labeled him a thug or this or that. But before anyone calls him out, ask what you may have done between the hours of 1 and 7 a.m. outside of any drinking establishment at some time in your life. My record’s not spotless. I’ve made mistakes. I’d hate to see any of them ruin my career. So that’s my response as a human. Give him another chance. Bring him back into the fold. But I get that the Hornets are in it to win. Period. I wouldn’t want any less. But if they let him go, I hope it’s with done with decency. I hope they give him some kind of exit support. And I hope they recommend him to other teams as someone who with a fresh start could flourish. It’d be the right thing to do.

But until we know more, we just have to wait and see.