Newest Spur will be eased into pro game

PORTLAND, Ore. — You wouldn’t blame Da’Sean Butler if March Madness caused him to break out in hives. It was nearly one year ago, in a Final Four game against Duke, that Butler suffered a devastating knee injury that sent his draft stock plummeting.

On Friday, the Spurs took steps to help the former West Virginia star create a more enjoyable March memory. Days after finally being medically cleared to return to basketball, Butler inked a contract with the Spurs that both parties hope will kick-start his professional career.

The Spurs don’t expect Butler, a 6-foot-7, 23-year-old forward, to suit up in the NBA this season.

“This signing has absolutely nothing to do with the 2010-11 roster,” general manager said.

Instead, the Spurs are making a small investment in the future roster. If by next season Butler can regain the form he showed before tearing his left ACL in West Virginia’s national semifinal loss to Duke, the Spurs will have essentially added another first-round prospect from the 2010 draft pool.

Butler left West Virginia as the school’s third all-time scorer, behind Hall of Famer and Hot Rod Hundley. He was tagged as a top 25 pick until the knee injury pushed him into the second round, where Miami selected him 46th overall.

Needing roster space to assemble veteran pieces around its new “,” Miami waived Butler on Oct. 25, making him a free agent.

“All that pre-draft speculation doesn’t mean much, but Da’Sean was an important player in the 2010 draft,” Buford said. “Hopefully, this is an opportunity to participate in his rehabilitation and recovery from his injury.”

Butler’s career with the Spurs will begin modestly, most likely in the .

“I’d imagine he will be assigned to Austin soon,” Buford said. “We need to get an understanding of his situation. We’ll get together with him this weekend, spend some time with him and go over his medical and physical needs.”

By adding Butler, the Spurs filled their roster to the maximum 15 players, likely signaling the last of their personnel moves this season.

Tourney talk: For most college basketball pundits and amateur bracketologists, Arizona’s 93-77 thrashing of Duke in Thursday’s NCAA Sweet 16 game was considered an upset.

A more startling upset would have been if , a proud Arizona alum, could have made it through shootaround Friday morning in Portland without mentioning it to assistant coach , a Duke alum.

“He got on the bus talking about it this morning,” said, laughing. “Chip would have done the same thing to him.”

The Wildcats’ resounding victory served as a bit of revenge for Jefferson, who played for the 2001 team that lost to Duke in the national title game.

“At the end of the day, they still beat us in the national championship game,” said Jefferson, whose name graces Arizona’s practice gym.

“So that little Sweet 16 game won’t last for too long.”

Staff writer contributed to this report.

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