Caron Butler: Clippers Resemble 2011 Mavs
Caron Butler brings a championship-pedigree from Dallas to the Los Angeles Clippers and he believes this team has the talent to compete for a title.
He should know. After all, Caron Butler witnessed first-hand the Dallas Mavericks’ championship season and was a huge piece of the eventual NBA-title winning Mavs.
This season, instead of teaming with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, Butler now has All-Stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul at his side with a Clippers team currently sitting at third (17-9) in the highly competitive Western Conference. The Clippers starting small forward believes there are some similarities between his former championship team and his current squad in Los Angeles.
“We have a lot of talent,” Butler said. “[Dallas] has a lot of experience and talent, Hall-of-Famers in that locker room over there. We have guys that are in the prime of their career, superstar players and great veteran leadership.”
When healthy, Butler was a key piece to a Mavericks team that shot out of the gate with an NBA-best 24-5 record.
However, on January 1, 2011, Butler sustained a gruesome knee injury against the Bucks in his hometown of Milwaukee that (unbeknownst to anyone at the time) would end up being his final game played as a Dallas Maverick.
“When he went down in Milwaukee, we could tell it was bad,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “His knee cap was about three or four inches up his leg because, when your patella tendon snaps, the knee cap gives. While he was on the floor, he took the knee cap and shoved it back down into place. Then he got up and walked off the floor under his own power.
“[Butler] told me, ‘My Momma and my Grandma were in the stands tonight and there’s no way I was going to let them see me be carried out on a stretcher.’”
A torn patella tendon in his right knee didn’t stop Butler, revered from top to bottom in the Mavericks’ organization, from being a positive influence and playing a key role for the eventual champion Mavs.
“I love the guy to begin with but that’s one of those all-time stories, and then the way he approached his rehab and the surgery and everything,” Carlisle said. “He was so upbeat and tweeting pictures of him in the hospital room and all that stuff. Every single day that we came in here, here’s a guy who’s career could have well be over if it was a lesser man – he was positive, upbeat and telling everyone he was going to be back [for the playoffs].
“Most people don’t come back from a patella tendon injury in less than six or eight months in most cases,” Carlisle continued. “But he was tantalizingly close to being activated in the Finals for the last game or two.”
This brings us to another correlation drawn by Butler himself between L.A. and his former team: the fact the Clippers have also lost an important piece to their squad early this season – Chauncey Billups.
“I think it’s very similar looking at the situation with what happened with Chauncey,” Butler said. “I was saying that to some of my teammates. Chauncey went down early in the season with an injury that he’s [now] out for the season and he’s definitely going to try to work himself back. I look at my injury and what I went through, trying to work myself back. It kind of has similarities.”
So far with the Clippers Butler has brought this unyielding positivity along with some priceless NBA Finals experience to his new team – not to mention some solid play on the court. A “prime time starter” again in this league according to former coach Carlisle, Butler is averaging over 15 points a game this season as one of the Clippers’ most consistent starters.
His current head coach couldn’t agree more with Butler’s former coach in Dallas.
“It helps some of the younger guys,” Clippers’ head coach Vinny Del Negro said of Butler’s experience. “It’s unfortunate with Caron’s injury last year but he’s had a terrific season for us. He’s been as consistent as anybody for us and when he plays well obviously we’re a much stronger team.”
The Clippers hope Butler can continue to combine his solid play on the court while also conveying some of the knowledge he acquired during last year’s title run in Dallas. For a team with aspirations that go further than just making the playoffs, Butler would seem to be invaluable as Los Angeles looks to make the postseason for just the fifth time in Clippers franchise history.
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