Rasual Butler had just returned from a morning shootaround with the Los Angeles Clippers when the message came through. What, a Daily News reporter wanted to know, was going through the mind of a Philly guy playing for a Los Angeles team as the Phillies prepared to face the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series?

"I'm in a new city and I don't want to say anything to get the people in LA mad at me, but I'm a Phillies guy, a Philly guy," Butler said. "I'm always Philly. I'm a diehard."

Butler is a 6-7 forward starting his eighth NBA season, his first with the Clippers. He's Philly born and bred, growing up in Point Breeze, starring at Roman Catholic High and La Salle University, completing his college career as the No. 4 scorer and three-point shooter in Explorers history. He hasn't been in LA very long (two home preseason games at the Staples Center), but long enough to notice some differences from his hometown.

"Philly is a blue-collar town where hard work is appreciated," Butler said. "Not to say it's not appreciated in LA, but LA is more relaxed. It's Hollywood, basically; it's beaches, it's easy-going."

Ralph Lawler, the broadcast voice of the Clippers since their days in San Diego in 1978 and a former employee at WCAU-TV, shared the sentiment. In an e-mail response, the former Pennsylvania Sportscaster of the Year said: "LA fans have been hypnotized by the mellow tones of Vin Scully, who has broadcast Dodgers games for 60 years. It's not cool to care too much in Los Angeles, and these people just don't wear their emotions on their sleeves as much as the fans in Philadelphia do."

It's all new, though, to Butler, traded to the Clippers from the New Orleans Hornets.

"Philly fans appreciate the hard work, the grind-it-out approach," Butler said. "They're tough fans. LA fans are more supportive; they don't get down on you as fast. But Philly fans, the way they are, they bring out the best in you. LA fans maybe encourage you a little more."

Philly means neighborhoods. In LA, Butler is learning that, "One big thing is, you tend to see more famous people in LA. You can walk down the street and run into people you see on TV in sitcoms and various shows." *