Chicago Sun-Times

Bulls begin free-agent search

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The Bulls met with free-agent Caron Butler on Monday morning, according to multiple reports. The Dallas Mavericks free-agent forward, who is recovering after rupturing the patellar tendon in his right knee last season, is also expected to visit the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons in coming days.

"There's no secret that he's a hell of a player," Bulls center Joakim Noah said of Butler. "I don't know how he is health-wise, but there's no question he's definitely a great player."

NBA executive and coaches were allowed to begin talking to players on Monday, although no oral or written agreements can be made until Friday because, at least technically, the lockout remains in effect. Coaches are also not allowed to supervise on-court activities until training camps open Friday, although players are free to work out on own, as Bulls players Luol Deng, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer did Monday. Center Joakim Noah was also expected at the Berto Center on Monday afternoon.

There's no denying the Bulls need for a starting shooting guard after Keith Bogans averaged only 4.4 per game last season, leaving Derrick Rose to carry the offensive load, which likely contributed to him wearing down in the Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Miami Heat. The Bulls have nine players who logged significant minutes last season under contract, which means they will be limited to a $5 million midlevel exception to upgrade two-guard position if they want to avoid the luxury tax. Expect them to target a veteran scorer willing to take less to play for a contender.

Butler averaged 16.6 points, 2.9 assists and 5.9 rebounds in his 11th NBA season. He also worked extremely hard in an attempt to recover from his injury in time to join his teammates for the playoffs. While he did not appear in the playoffs, his team-first mentality might fit nicely with the Bulls tightly knit group.

Another possibility for the Bulls could involve Vince Carter, who may be released by the Phoenix Suns in a move that could save the franchise $14 million in 2012, according to multiple published and Internet reports. In 72 games last season, the 13-year veteran averaged 14 points, 3.8 rebounds and two assists per game.

Jason Richardson of the Orlando Magic, Shane Battier of the Memphis Grizzlies and the Washington Wizards' Josh Howard are also possibilities.

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on December 5, 2011 2:22 PM.

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