by Jake Fischer / @JakeLFischer
ORLANDO — My brother texted me during the Indiana Pacers’ narrow loss to the Boston Celtics at the Orlando Pro Summer League: “Why is Rasual Butler playing? I used to play with him in NBA Live 2005 with the Heat!”
My response: “You gotta do what you gotta do to make a paycheck.”
Butler is now more than a full year removed from when he last appeared in an NBA game on March 21, 2012 as a member of the Toronto Raptors. He spent ’12-13 with the Tulsa 66ers in the D-League. That’s a far cry from where he was back in his prime in the middle of the last decade, serving as a contributing role player on multiple Playoff teams.
Butler averaged 10.6 points in 31.6 minutes per game for the New Orleans Hornets in ’08-09. This week, he’s down in Orlando trying to make the Pacers’ squad for this upcoming season.
“It’s a great organization,” Butler said. “They’ve been competing in the East for the past couple of years, but they need shooting and veteran leadership and those are things I can bring to the table. So I felt like it was a great opportunity to give them an up close and personal look at me, practice with the team and see how it goes.”
Veteran leadership could simply be considered a synonym for old, this week. Butler is now 34, seven years older than the second oldest teammate on the Pacers’ summer league roster. But age is but a number for the swingman. He scored 7 points and grabbed 3 rebounds in just 12 minutes of action against the Celtics on Tuesday.
“This is just basketball, man,” Butler said after the game. “The game is a game and it follows you everywhere you go. You just gotta play your game and do what you do.”
He’s also enjoying being a leader and the savvy veteran on the team.
“I’m giving them as much advice as I can,” Butler said. “They ask me a lot of questions. I’m just being vocal, telling them where to go, what are the right places and settling them down. I make sure everybody knows their spots defensively. It’s a role that I’ve taken on and I’ve enjoyed.”
One of the younger players who is eager to hear Butler’s advice is former Syracuse guard Jonny Flynn. After being selected sixth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2009 NBA Draft, Flynn was essentially given the keys to the franchise as a rookie starting point guard. Now, just four years later, he’s fighting to even make an NBA roster while Ricky Rubio is living large at the point in Minneapolis.
Flynn last appeared in the League with the Portland Trail Blazers in the ’11-12 season. After falling out of the rotation with the Wolves, Flynn then became a trade piece in a deal with the Houston Rockets who then sent him to the Blazers.
“Sometimes things don’t always go as you’ve planned,” Flynn said about his time with the Timberwolves. “You just have to persevere, you have to show resolve and get through tough situations and that’s what I’m doing right now.”
After playing and starting in 81 games for Minnesota in his rookie ’09-10 campaign, Flynn only appeared in 82 games over his next two seasons with the Wolves, Rockets and Blazers. After his third NBA season ended, he felt it was best to go overseas.
“The last two years in the League, I was on the bench, so whenever I touched the court was when the dance team was out there and the mascots were shooting out t-shirts. Just being able to get out there this past year and have the ball tossed to me was a great experience,” Flynn said of his time playing in Australia for the Melbourne Tigers in ’12-13. “You know, I love the game more than I love the NBA, so just getting to play was great for me.”
This week, he’s seen limited time with the Pacers in Orlando. After not appearing in the team’s opening contest on Sunday against the Thunder, Flynn has averaged 2.5 points and 3 assists in 12 minutes per game in Indiana’s last two contests. But, he’s still very confident in what he can do on the court.
“I’m always confident, you never lose confidence in yourself,” Flynn said.
Flynn will be playing with the Los Angeles Clippers in the Las Vegas Summer League in hopes to increase his chances to find a spot on an NBA roster this fall. On the other hand, Butler is sticking with the Pacers and is giving it all he’s got to join Paul George in Indy this season.
For both players, it’s just about playing basketball and being themselves this week. But, ultimately, getting back to the League is something they both would love and cherish.