“Hello? Hey, this is Caron…Caron Butler.”
In this line of work it’s not unusual to get calls from coaches, players and sources. It is unusual, though, to receive calls from NBA players at 7:30 AM. But this past Friday, that’s when two-time All-Star Caron Butler rang my cell.
Twelve hours prior to his call, Caron’s people and I were hard at work trying to find a good time for us to talk. After some haggling, we worked it out that the recently traded Butler would give me a shout at 9:30 AM. Of course, calling me at 9:30 my time meant that Caron was dialing me up at 8:30 Dallas time. By calling so early, he was putting himself out and doing me a solid. A major solid.
So when my phone started ringing at 8:30 AM, I was caught off guard. I was actually still in bed. I didn’t actually expect Caron to call on time, let alone early. So when I picked up and heard Caron yawning hello on the other end of the line, I nearly dropped the phone. Somehow we had crossed wires, and he had woken up to call me at 7:30 his time, thinking he had to reach me at 8:30 my time. I felt bad, but not bad enough to tell him to go catch a nap and call back later. Nope. Instead the newest Dallas Maverick and I chopped it up for a few, then he went to get ready for his third game as a member of the Mavericks.
So while there was a lot of yawning omitted, here’s what one of the true professionals in the NBA had to say:
SLAM: How did you find out about your trade from the Wizards? Where were you at when it went down?
CB: I was at home. I got wind of it already from management. And the owner, Mrs. Pollin, she had called me to let me know there was going to be some changes. And I couldn’t do nothing but respect that. Obviously what was going on wasn’t working; so it wasn’t like a shock like a lot of people [who are traded] get.
SLAM: Wow. Mrs. Pollin called you herself. How much did that mean to you?
CB: It meant a lot. It really did mean a lot. I went above and beyond for that organization, and I’m deeply rooted into the community. So for her to reach out to me, that did mean a lot.
SLAM: After hearing the news, what was the first emotion you felt? Relief? Sadness? Something else all together?
CB: Just leaving the city of Washington, there was a brief moment of sadness. You know, cause obviously [I] had some relationships there with people that are going to continue for the rest of our life, people that you really consider friends. That was the difficult thing. But at the same time, I understand the nature of this business—everything is subject to change. And I’m going into another situation that’s a great situation. It’s one of the best organizations in the League, and the owner’s really trying to get a championship and put the pieces together. So I feel great about what I’m a part of.
SLAM: When you got to Dallas what were your first impressions of the city itself?
CB: It was a lot going on. Obviously it was right after the All-Star game. A lot was going on. I haven’t really had an opportunity to go see the city, but the people have been great from the second I arrived off the airplane, greeting me and saying ‘welcome to Dallas.’ And they’re showing a lot of love, respect and appreciation for what I do. So that does mean a lot.
SLAM: What are your first impressions of the team? How are they different from the Wizards?
CB: I mean, obviously, we got one of the best point guards to ever play the game, Hall-of-Famer Jason Kidd, another Hall-of-Famer Dirk and we got so many other guys—Jason Terry, Shawn Marion—that have been around, and whose truly main objective is just winning. You know, and that’s just a fun thing to be a part of. My situation has just improved because I see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m on a team that always get 50 wins every season, and [Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and the other guys] plus myself gives us a legit chance to compete for a title.
SLAM: It’s great just to be in the NBA, but how much better is it to be back in a Playoff race, to be competing for a ’chip?
CB: It’s great! It’s always great to be competing for something and obviously you want to be competing for the title every year, but realistically having a chance at getting it, we talking real, it’s just great, I’m happy just to be in this position.
SLAM: So have you talked to coach Carlisle about what he wants from you yet, about the kind of adjustments you’re going to have to make in your game?
CB: Coach told me to be as aggressive as possible. Told me to stay aggressive, to not switch up anything. He keeps telling me to remain aggressive at all times, to not second-guess anything. And that’s the type of encouragement you need from a coach. And we’re learning everything on the fly. I went out there and played— myself, Brendan [Haywood] and DeShawn [Stevenson]—after landing in the city and not being able to practice because of trade waivers and stuff wasn’t clear. So we just walked on the court and basically played pickup ball. So we’re learning the offense on the fly, and so far so good.
SLAM: You’ve been traded before, never mid-season though. How different is it? I mean, you were in Washington for almost five years.
CB: Yeah, all my other trades happened in the summer. You get an opportunity to adjust, get the family together and learn the offense through training camp. But this situation, a mid-season trade, has never happened before in my career, and everything’s happening so fast. Having less than 24 hours to come in and prepare for a situation is new, but it’s the business of the game and I understand it.
SLAM: So here in Dallas, title or bust?
CB: That’s what we hope. That’s the plan. Try to get a title. We have a realistic shot at doing it, long as these guys stay healthy.
SLAM: And then you plan on working out and staying around Dallas this summer?
CB: Yeah, just stick around. Get my living arrangements together, and just stick around and get adjusted to the city and the people. And I just [want to] focus on winning a title. That’s the main goal.
SLAM: You’ve played a few games already and I see you went back to wearing number four. What’s up with that?
CB: When I was in Washington I said that if I ever had to change my number again I would go back to my number four that I had in Miami. And the opportunity presented itself, so I went back to the number four.
SLAM: Last question: How good is it to play with Dirk Nowitzki? Does it look as good as it does on TV?
CB: Better. [Laughs] He draws so much attention. I’ve played with so many superstars, and it’s truly been great for me playing alongside Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas—guys that draw so much attention. And now, playing alongside a guy like Dirk is just unbelievable .
SLAM: CB, thanks for the early phone call…
CB: No problem at all.