NBA PM: Butler Not Done After All?
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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If you’re looking for the latest on the Carmelo Anthony front then you have come to the wrong place. Steve Kyler, Bill Ingram and myself have decided to make today a Carmelo-free day in order to give ourselves a break from the endless speculation and contradicting information that surrounds the Denver Nuggets forward. Believe it or not, though, there are other things to talk about in the NBA!
Butler Eyeing A Late-Season Return: Dallas Mavericks forward Caron Butler is expected to be out for the remainder of the season after recently undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. However, the Mavericks forward is far more optimistic than everyone else and feels like there is a good chance that he could be back in the later portion of this season.
"I know what muscles to keep fired, what little things to do," said Butler to ESPN.com’s Jeff Caplan. "I just need some time. I’ve been through this before when I was 15 years old and it took about 4.5 months to come back from, and I was rolling. I was good. I was healthy. So I just need time."
Caron’s desire to comeback is undoubtedly fueled by the Mavericks’ struggles in his absence. Since Caron’s injury they’ve gone 2-7, although Mavericks captain Dirk Nowitzki has missed most of those contests as well.
Also serving as motivation to make an early return is the fact that Butler is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If Caron is able to come back before the conclusion of the season and show everyone that he is 100% with no long-term effects from the injury he’ll be positioned to make far more this summer than he would otherwise.
The big question is if Caron will be making his comeback as a member of the Mavericks. As soon as Butler went down his expiring contract of $10.5 million started getting mentioned in trade rumors. His deal is quite possibly the most attractive trade asset that the Mavericks have and they could be forced to use it if the right deal comes along.
Considering their current skid it’s hard to imagine the Mavericks holding onto Caron’s contract despite his aspirations to come back. They need help right now that he can’t provide and they also want to be on a roll come playoff time. Trying to get Butler re-accustomed to everything on the fly late in the season could end up hurting more than it helps, so don’t expect this recent development to keep Butler in Dallas. They’re in a position where they have to make some moves in order to contend and shopping Butler is one of the few ways that they can get some decent return in that can immediately help them bounce back from their current slump.
Noah Improving: The rest of the Eastern Conference should be concerned because the surging Chicago Bulls are about to get their defensive anchor back. Center Joakim Noah, who has been out of action since December 16th with a torn ligament in his right thumb, is getting a pin removed from his hand next week and his return should follow a few weeks after.
"It’s been long and sometimes frustrating not being able to be out there with my teammates," said Noah to NBA.com. "Physically I feel pretty good. I’ve been doing a lot of cardio and working out. I feel strong and I’ll be ready to get back and help the team.
"When you’re injured you have to take a step back and see the big picture. It’s like you’re on the outside looking in. being in that position, I feel like we have a lot of potential on this team."
Noah’s exact return date has not been set. It depends on how his hand reacts to the rehabilitation he’ll undergo after the removal of the pin. While it’s up in the air, he does have a February 24th date against the Miami HEAT circled as a game he’d definitely like to play in.
"I’m just trying to control what I can control right now," said Noah. "I’m all about getting this pin out of my finger and getting my hand back to 100 percent. Hopefully it’s before (February 24th) because I would love to play in that game."
While sitting on the sidelines Noah, who was averaging a career-best 14 points and 11 rebounds prior to the injury, has seen teammate Derrick Rose pick up the slack and keep the Bulls near the top of the Eastern Conference. Rose mentioned being in the Most Valuable Player discussion as one of his goals at the beginning of the season and has earned Noah’s vote.
"Derrick is a legit MVP candidate," acknowledged Noah. "There’s no question about that. He’s really stepped his game up. You see the progress he’s made since his rookie year and it makes you very proud of the way he’s been playing. I’m proud to be his teammate. You see him at the end of the game, guarding guys like Dwyane Wade in key situations. With the progress he’s made not just at the offensive end but defensively, I give him a lot of credit."
It’s Rose’s growth and his improving health that has Noah more optimistic than ever about what the Bulls can do come playoff time.
"I’m hoping we’re pretty dominant," concluded Noah. "That’d definitely what I want to be. But there are a lot of good teams out there. When I come back, I’ll contribute the best I can. The best part about it is that we have the potential to be a very, very good team, one of the top teams in the East. The goal is to win a championship. We have a ways to go, but it’s something that is reachable. We need to stay driven and hungry. If we have that attitude, I think good things will happen for this club."
Meet Jan Vesely: HOOPSWORLD’s latest mock draft will be coming out this week and near the top of it will be a name that is unfamiliar to those who are not draft junkies: Jan Vesely. Vesely is a 6’11 forward from the Czech Republic who is not even 21 years old yet.
While he may be young, Vesely is capable of playing with men and has done so overseas for a few years already. He’s not your stereotypical forward from abroad who loves to hang around outside the perimeter taking jump shots either. He’s a high-flyer who looks to get to the rim at all times and he’ll be coming to an NBA arena near you next season as he has his mind made up on entering the 2011 draft.
"I’m a very dynamic and athletic player," Vesely told SLAM Magazine. "They say that I’m one of the best athletes in Europe. I excel in activities such as blocks, primarily gains and dunks. I intensively work on shooting from long distance and gaming activities based on one on one action."
"My idol for a long time has been LeBron James."
While James is Vesely’s idol, he actually plans on playing power forward in the NBA. At that position Vesely will have to bulk up to hang with the likes of New York Knicks four man Amar’e Stoudemire and Chicago Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer. However, they’ll have to adjust to him too because he’s got quite the first step and a nice perimeter game – much like Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks.
"it’s hard for me to compare myself to any player who has been in the NBA," said Vesely. "Maybe I could say Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas. I like his style of play a lot."
Vesely is currently under contract with Partizan overseas until 2013, meaning whoever drafts him will have to negotiate a buyout with them. His buyout rate is unknown right now, but it shouldn’t serve as a roadblock from him going to the NBA since that’s his top desire and he’s projected to go in the top 10. If the NCAA’s top underclassmen like Baylor’s Perry Jones III and Duke’s Kyrie Irving decide to wait until 2012 to enter the draft he could even slip into the top five.
Players Of The Week: The Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook today were named the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Jan. 10-16.
Rose propelled the Bulls to three wins for the week by averaging 27.3 points, tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference, 6.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds. In Saturday’s win over Miami, Rose scored 34 points while dishing out eight assists. He went 28-for-29 (.966) from the free throw line for the week.
Westbrook averaged 27.5 points, a league-best 13.0 assists and 9.0 rebounds to help the Thunder go 2-0. He recorded his second triple-double of the season on Jan. 13, in the win over Orlando. Oklahoma City has a 12-3 record when Westbrook hands out 10-plus assists.
Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Charlotte’s D.J. Augustin, Golden State’s Monta Ellis, Los Angeles Clippers’ Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin, Memphis’ Zach Randolph, New Orleans’ David West and Emeka Okafor, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Orlando’s Dwight Howard, Phoenix’s Steve Nash, San Antonio’s Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker, Utah’s Deron Williams and Washington’s Nick Young.
Twitter: The 2010-2011 season is here and HOOPSWORLD is going to have a much larger presence on twitter. If you aren’t following all of our experts you’re missing out on some of the most-up-to-date information in both the NBA and NCAA along with breaking news and great insight. HOOPSWORLD’s twitter team consists of Yannis Koutroupis, Steve Kyler, Bill Ingram, Alex Kennedy, Eric Pincus, Lang Greene, Jason Fleming, Tommy Beer, Luke Byrnes, Alex Raskin, and Joel Brigham.
NBA Chats: Chat wraps from earlier today are available from Luke Byrnes and Eric Pincus. Tomorrow’s chat schedule features Steve Kyler and Tommy Beer. As always you can also checkout our entire upcoming chat schedule.