Two players, same answer.
Rasual Butler and John Lucas III were asked after Wolves practice Wednesday why they decided to make their bid for an NBA roster here.
“Coach Thibs,” Butler said, instantly.
“Absolutely, Thibs,” Lucas said.
Both Butler and Lucas are 37 years old. Both have played for Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau before. And both want to do it again, and are here on non-guaranteed contracts. Butler is a forward with a good outside shot that can stretch defenses. Lucas is a point guard looking to return to the NBA since last playing in Detroit during the 2014-15 season.
Both have a chance.
There are 17 players on the Wolves camp roster. The regular-season roster will be at 15 — including center Nikola Pekovic, who will be on the roster but won’t play this season.
So there is a good chance that one of the three training camp invitees — Lucas, Butler and guard Toure’ Murry — could make the final cut.
Butler is a survivor. He has played in 809 games in 13 seasons, averaging 7.5 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. He is a career 36.2 percent shooter on three-pointers and he played briefly in Chicago in the 2010-11 season. This is the third consecutive fall he has gone to camp with a team with a non-guaranteed deal. He made it the past two times, last year in San Antonio.
“It’s just working hard in the summertime and sticking with it,” Butler said. “Trying to pick up the systems of each of the franchises I’ve been at. It’s tough, but if you claim to love something, then you do whatever it takes to attain it. I love this game, and when I walk away from it I’m hoping to be empty and not be gone before my time.”
Lucas, who played 18 games in the D-League last season, has played for five teams in seven NBA seasons. His most productive season came in Chicago playing for Thibodeau in 2011-12, when he averaged 7.5 points and 2.2 assists in 49 games. (He also played two games for Chicago in 2010-11.) Lucas broke into the league in Houston, where Thibodeau was an assistant to Jeff Van Gundy.
“I’m always been attracted to the coaches that are about toughness,” he said. “And I played some of the best basketball of my professional career when I was in Chicago.”
It’s clear Thibodeau wanted to add some experience to a young roster, something he did in free agency with the additions of Cole Aldrich, Jordan Hill and Brandon Rush. But by inviting both Butler and Lucas to camp, he got two players who know how he operates. And in a camp dedicated to building a culture in his image, veteran experience can help.
“He’ll make training camp good,” Thibodeau said of Butler. “He knows how to execute, and he can shoot the ball. I always feel you never have enough shooting. I think he complements our best players very well.”
Both Butler and Lucas are more than willing to be mentors. Lucas talked Wednesday about how rookie Kris Dunn has been peppering him with questions since camp started.
“He’s soaking it up like a sponge,” Lucas said.
Said Butler: “Being in this league for a little while, you understand what it takes to win. I’ve been on some good teams, and I’ve been on some bad teams. So I’ve pretty much seen it all. I’m here to add some outside shooting and be a defender. But most of all help the younger guys.’’