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‘Rusty’ Butler works on building chemistry with Derrick Rose

Updated: November 26, 2013 6:41AM

Shooting guard Jimmy Butler’s bruised left knee was still sore Thursday, but his confidence ­remains stronger than ever.

Butler had missed the previous three games before playing 33 minutes in the Bulls’ 104-95 victory Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He scored 12 points and had three assists.

Butler, who has struggled with his shot this preseason (13-for-39 from the field), realizes the Bulls might have the most athletic backcourt in the NBA with Derrick Rose back to join him. Now if the two can just get on the court at the same time and build some chemistry before opening night Tuesday in Miami.

“Still working on [the chemistry], but you kind of get to mesh with the guys that are out there on the floor with you, going to the basket or spotting up or letting [Rose] create,’’ Butler said. “I feel like all eyes are going to be on him a majority of the time anyway, so you just have to be ready. Sometimes you don’t know the ball is coming to you, but it will get there somehow.’’

It was only the third preseason game Rose and Butler have been on the court at the same time. And with Rose out all of last season and Butler basically a redshirt rookie two years ago, there hasn’t been a lot of time to build a rapport.

But having Rose on the court makes everyone around him ­better. Now it’s Butler’s job to make sure he’s living up to his end of the bargain.

Coach Tom Thibodeau described Butler’s preseason as rusty.

A lot of that has to do with his shooting.

“Well, he hasn’t shot the ball well in the preseason, but part of that is not playing, so he’s got to put the work in to get the rust off,’’ Thibodeau said. “But he’s one of those guys who can play well without shooting well, provided he’s healthy.’’

Butler concurred with Thibodeau’s assessment.

“I feel better, as in me getting up and down the floor, but there are still some kinks I need to work out,’’ Butler said. “That just comes with more reps and getting back out there with four other guys. As the days keep going and the games keep coming, I’ll figure it out.’’

Good shooting day or not, Rose and Butler always have one thing on their side: explosiveness. As a backcourt tandem, Rose and Butler are always a highlight waiting to happen. And Butler’s defense alone can make a difference.

The most athletic backcourt in the NBA?

“That’s a good question,’’ Butler said. “I hear it, but I don’t know. I guess we’ll come to find out.’’


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