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Bullets' Butler ready to drill outside shots


BOWIE -- There was no hesitation for Mitchell Butler as he caught passes during a shooting drill, and no hitch as he released his jumper.

More often than not, his jumpers hit the bottom of the net -- some feat for a player who brought on nervous responses any time he put up anything other than a layup last season for the Washington Bullets.

"Definitely, I had to work on all aspects of my shooting," Butler said yesterday, the second day of the team's rookie/free agent camp at Bowie State University. "For me, it was mostly technique and form."

There was little technique or form to Butler's outside shot last season. His 49.5 percent shooting was mainly a credit to his ability to drive to the basket. His 57.8 percent shooting from the free-throw line was a truer indication of his outside touch.

But a week of workouts with shooting guru Buzz Braman apparently has paid off for Butler, who has been impressive with his shot release since reporting to camp Friday.

"He's shooting with a lot more confidence," said Bullets general manager John Nash. "Whether that translates in July into a high level of productivity in November, let's say we have a long way to go."

The week Butler spent with Braman in Orlando, Fla., was filled with long hours of simply shooting.

"Five hundred shots a day at least and sometimes close to a thousand, depending on the drill," Butler said. "[Braman] really didn't want to burn me out, but he wanted to make sure I remembered exactly what I had to do. I'm real happy with the result."

And happy that, despite going undrafted out of UCLA in 1993 and making an NBA roster as a free agent, he still fits in the Bullets' plans. The team suggested he work out with Braman, hoping to further shape the game of the 6-foot-5 shooting guard/small forward who often excited the home crowd with his high-flying level of play.

"There's no question we feel Mitchell Butler has a future in Washington," Nash said. "I can't tell you whether he'll play big guard or small forward. I can't tell you whether he'll play five minutes or 25 minutes. I can tell you we acknowledge and recognize his talent to the extent that we want to get him under contract."

That will have to wait until at least Tuesday, when the NBA and its players will sit down and attempt to settle their labor dispute. There can be no free-agent signings until then.

But when he does sign, Butler could more than double the $150,000 rookie minimum he earned last season.

Butler has been impressed with Jim Lynam and the new staff. "They seem very positive and very encouraging," Butler said. "[Lynam's] a tremendous teacher, and he's showed me quite a few things already."

And he is making the most of an opportunity to give the new staff an early look at his game. Throughout last season, Butler expressed gratitude about getting an opportunity to play in the NBA.

His time spent in Orlando with Braman was just one small way Butler could show his appreciation.

NOTE: Nash said that it's doubtful that first-round draft pick Juwan Howard, out of Michigan, will make an appearance at the camp.

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