MILWAUKEE -- The Bulls signed point guard D.J. Augustin on Friday to provide some depth to their depleted backcourt. Augustin was averaging 2.1 points and one assist per game with Toronto before being released.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau said he anticipated Augustin playing in some capacity against the Bucks and added that he liked what the sixth-year player out of Texas could bring the Bulls, especially from distance.
“His shooting is something we really need, the way teams have collapsed on us, we need somebody who can make open shots,” Thibodeau said. “I like the fact that he’s young. He’s started a number of games in this league and he can hit a three, those two things are a big plus. He appears to be motivated so I hope it works out.
“He also will provide some spacing when the ball goes into the post. The 3 is something we want to try and get back to and I think he can provide that.”
Thibodeau said he’d prefer not to have to introduce new players into the rotation in the middle of a season but recognized that injuries have forced the issue. He said it was possible Augustin could be the first guard off the bench and could also play in tandem with guard Kirk Hinrich.
“Right now we’re down bodies, whatever the circumstances are you make the best of them and oftentimes good things can come out of it, and that’s the way we’re approaching it,” Thibodeau said. “We’re talking about a guy (Augustin) that’s been in the league, so he has some experience and I think that will serve him well.”
Help is on the way
The cavalry has ridden in for the staggering Bulls, help is on the way.
Whether it was the embarrassing home loss to the equally shorthanded Bucks on Tuesday, the 23-point blown lead in New York the next night, the 2-9 record since he’s been out or if he’s finally just healthy, Jimmy Butler will play Friday night in Milwaukee.
Thibodeau confirmed before the game that Butler would be in the starting lineup against the Bucks, who beat Chicago, 78-42 earlier this week.
“He is a go,” Thibodeau told reporters immediately.
The Bulls have won just twice in the 11 games since Butler went down with a turf toe injury -- though most of that time coincided with Derrick Rose also being out with his knee injury. Butler’s return could galvanize a dragging and still-shorthanded Bulls team that has been kicked around the past two weeks.
Before getting hurt, Butler was averaging 11.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 29.8 minutes per game, while also providing his typically strong defense.
Thibodeau said Butler, who makes his return in the arena in which he played during college at Marquette, helps Chicago in many ways.
“It’s not only defensively, it’s all areas,” Thibodeau said. “He makes us function well, great energy, obviously he’s a great defender, he’s also very good offensively, he can run the floor, you can post him, he makes open shots, he makes plays. He adds a lot to the team.”
Thibodeau expected to give Butler about 20 to 25 minutes of action, depending on how the game goes.
“He looks good in the drills,” Thibodeau said. “I want to see what he can handle.”
Butler will be getting the start practically out of necessity, as a season of attrition has reduced the Bulls’ active roster. He got hurt back in training camp, missed some time, returned to play nine regular-season games before the toe injury sidelined him again.
Thibodeau said it’s been difficult to get the third-year guard sufficient practice time because of the Bulls’ schedule, especially all the back-to-back games. But he said Butler’s nine-game “foundation” of game action was important and added that Butler should be fully healthy.
“He’s taken his time coming back,” Thibodeau said. “So I think he’s 100 percent as far as physically how he feels.”
Thibodeau said rookie Tony Snell would stay in the rotation, despite Butler’s return.
Deng still out:
Butler is back, but Deng still sits.
Thibodeau said the Bulls’ leading scorer was a “no-go” on Friday.
“He’s feeling a lot better but he’s not quite there,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll see tomorrow. He’s close.”