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She’ll probably be grinning, too, when he gets his communications degree in a few weeks.

“It’s been a long road,” she said. “As you can see, I can’t stop crying. But it’s amazing.”

Butler’s hard-scrabble story has been one of most compelling of the NBA draft. He said last week that he was glad to get it out, to discuss it, and that he “wouldn’t change anything for the world.”

“It was hard, but I had friends that helped me cope with that,” he said. “Then, I finally met the Lamberts and they accepted me for who I was and gave me a chance at life, turned me into a better person, taught me a lot of things that I didn’t know growing up. They supported me and always believed in me through the ups and through the downs.”

Lambert has seen him grow from a shy teen to a confident young adult, and she simply marvels at it.

Butler’s life turned one summer day when Leslie, who’s three years younger, challenged him to a shooting contest, and they quickly struck up a bond. He started staying over, and it soon became a more permanent arrangement even though there already was a full house.

Lambert had three kids with her late first husband. She then married Michael Lambert, who had three from a previous marriage, and they had one child together.

That didn’t stop them from taking in Butler, and pretty soon, he was calling Michelle “mom.”

“I saw that my kids _ we had to share anyway because there were so many _ that they were willing to share,” she said. “Jordan wanted to give up his Christmas presents to go to Jimmy. … I knew that my kids loved him.”

NOTE: Forman called 6-foot-10 F Nikola Mirotic, the 23rd pick, a “lottery-type talent.” The Bulls acquired his rights through a draft-night trade with Minnesota. Mirotic is under contract with Real Madrid for four more years.