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Marquette’s Jimmy Butler caps night of blindsides by Bulls

Marquette’s Jimmy Butler whom Bulls drafted with 30th pick might provide some immediate help.  |  Morry Gash~AP

Marquette’s Jimmy Butler, whom the Bulls drafted with the 30th pick, might provide some immediate help. | Morry Gash~AP

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Updated: June 24, 2011 12:09PM



It was a night of blindsides by the Bulls.

The first one came when they acquired a 6-10 Montenegran who likely won’t be seen in an NBA uniform over the next three years. The second came with the drafting of Marquette guard/forward Jimmy Butler, who could easily provide the Hollywood script if there’s ever a need to make ‘‘The Blind Side II.’’

There was a method to the Bulls’ madness by The Gar Forman Gang, as one move was made with Bulls killer LeBron James in mind, the other to someday get Carlos Boozer off their minds if he repeats his 2011 postseason performance.

Despite daylong rumors of the Bulls doing something big leading up to Thursday night’s NBA draft, sexy got up and left the war room when it was reported the Bulls traded picks No. 28 in the first round and No.  43 in the second round to the Timberwolves for the draft rights to 6-10 forward Nikola Mirotic.

He’s a nice player for the five people who have actually seen him play for Real Madrid, but also a player with a messy contract that only the Cubs could love.

Mirotic is tied into his European deal for at least two, possibly three, more seasons, and could add to the frontline when Boozer is chased out of town by angry villagers wielding torches.

The instant return the Bulls are hoping for came at pick No.  30 with the 6-7 Butler, who admittedly is a defense-first-, second- and third-minded player.

‘‘My biggest thing is defense,’’ Butler said. ‘‘I’m a pest.’’

Asked if Butler was brought in to slow down the Miami Heat’s James — a mission that was obviously too dangerous for the Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals — Forman admitted that was the mind-set.

‘‘It was discussed as we went through the process,’’ Forman said. ‘‘And that’s not to put pressure on him that we’re just going to throw him on LeBron. The thing we’re so excited about Jimmy is his versatility.’’

More impressive than Butler’s versatility is his story. Kicked out of his house at age 13 and homeless, Butler soon became friends with a kid named Jordan Leslie. Leslie’s mother, Michelle Lambert, gave him a home and eventually made him a part of the family. Think the Michael Oher story, which was turned into the hit movie, ‘‘The Blind Side.’’

‘‘I never had anything,’’ Butler said in his first teleconference with Chicago media. ‘‘[My childhood] made me tough, made me understand how to treat people.’’

Butler said that he tried to keep his background a secret, but it came out through the draft process. Now, it’s part of his young legacy, already more impressive than anything he could ever do on the court.

Forman was well-versed in Butler’s story and thought it built a character who’s a perfect fit.

‘‘Each time we [met with him], he blew us away,’’ Forman said.

So why do Bulls fans feel so unsatisfied today?

Because in a draft with little talent, the Bulls put their toes in the water, making sure not to make a big splash. Not yet, at least.

Mirotic was selected so that they didn’t have to pay anyone for now and could gamble he develops. Butler is another defensive chess piece for mad scientist Tom Thibodeau. Now, they have to pay only one rookie and can look for a veteran shooter such as Rip Hamilton or Jason Richardson, depending on what comes out of the pending collective bargaining agreement.

It was good business.

Even if almost no one saw it coming.



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