Southwest Notes: Butler, Ajinca, Green

The Spurs weren’t the only NBA team interested in Rasual Butler when he signed with San Antonio last month, as a Western Conference suitor lurked, but the 36-year-old finds there’s “no place better to be than here,” reports Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News. Butler’s contract is non-guaranteed, but he has a line on a regular season roster spot, according to coach/executive Gregg Popovich, as Young notes.

“He’s a seasoned pro in a sense that he knows himself, he knows what role he can play,” Popovich said. “He’s at a stage in his career where he just wants to be a part of something that’s just positive and good. He obviously can shoot the basketball. If he couldn’t shoot, we wouldn’t be talking to him. You got to have a skill to play. For all those reasons, he’s somebody that’s got a great shot to make our team.”

The Spurs have 13 fully guaranteed contracts, seemingly leaving two available spots on the opening night roster. See more on the Spurs amid the latest from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans backup center Alexis Ajinca will miss the next four to six weeks because of a right hamstring strain, the team announced. New Orleans committed a four-year, $19.5MM deal to Ajinca this past summer, and the team is without any other natural center to play behind Omer Asik, with the possible exception of Anthony Davis. The injury could bode well for power forward Jeff Adrien, the only big man without a fully guaranteed salary on the Pelicans.
  • Jeff Green says he was frustrated with the lack of a consistent role with the Grizzlies following the midseason trade that took him to Memphis, but he’s optimistic about this year, and coach Dave Joerger is expecting a breakout season, as Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal details. Green is set for free agency this coming summer after picking up his $9.2MM player option this past June. “It was tough to not be in one role. One day I’d start, one day I’d come off the bench. I was playing the 3 and the 4. It was tough,” Green said. “It’s hard to do. There’s only a few players that can really do that. I’m thankful to be in that position to be able to do that. But when you come onto a team halfway through the year, having to do that is tough because you never get a grasp of what you really need to do for the team. This year, I have an open mind. It doesn’t matter what position I play, I’m going to give it my all.”
  • Cory Joseph started for the Spurs most of December last year and wound up seeing only 22 total minutes during the postseason. A similarly occasional place in Sacramento’s rotation has trade acquisition Ray McCallum willing to embrace the same stop-and-start playing time with the Spurs, as Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News chronicles. Joseph snagged a four-year, $30MM deal with the Raptors this past summer, and McCallum is due for restricted free agency at season’s end.
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