The Butler Did It
It’s not about what Caron Butler’s done, but what he says is yet to come.
Everyone knows Caron Butler’s story by now. The late start at ball. Time behind bars. The trades. Traveling the hard road to the League is certainly respectable, but his tale is over-told to the point of being played out.
Focus on the present, the future. Forget the past. Don’t let what was blind you to what is. Don’t let his star teammates divert all of your attention, either. Turning 30 during the coming season, Caron is now a grown man–far removed from his adolescent transgressions, yet still young enough to be in his peak years.
Owning career averages of 16.7 ppg, 6 rpg and 3 apg, Caron’s oncourt resume is even stronger than those digits suggest. Aside from upping his scoring average five years running (clocking in at 20.8 per last season), Butler’s known for his tenacious, physical defensive presence–be it on his own man or on the free man under the basket.
Healed, healthy and hyped, Tough Juice is ready for a big season–personally and for the Wizards. But don’t take my word for it. Take his:
SLAM: What’s good, Caron?
Caron Butler: Ain’t nothing. Chillin’.
SLAM: Up until preseason started, what were you up to this summer—chilling at home?
CB: Nah, man. I’ve been grinding all summer, trying to stay up on it. Working on my strength and agility and speed. You know, just trying to stay in a good basketball rhythm. The season ended rather early for us last year, so I didn’t want to take too much time off.
SLAM: How’s the preseason going so far? How’s your body feel?
CB: I feel great. I think the preseason’s going as expected. You know, getting guys accustomed to the new offensive scheme of things as well as the defensive, and adjusting to a new voice in the locker room, along with new personnel on the team. I think it’s going good.
SLAM: How’s your personal adjustment to the new coach been, especially since you were so close to Coach Jordan?
CB: Yeah, I was real close to Coach Jordan. At the same time, I understand the nature of the business and how this thing goes. I’ve experienced a lot of coaching changes in my career, you know, you learn things on the fly and adjust. Flip Saunders has been great. He reached out to me in the summer, came and saw me in Chicago and in numerous workouts, and just told me his vision for this season, and how big of a part of it I was. So I was anxious to get under his wing and start playing for him.
SLAM: Did he ask you to work on anything specific, something you’d need in his offense?
CB: He told me to continue to be aggressive. His main thing was for me to continue challenging myself on the defensive end of things. Being a guy that can go out and score is one thing, but being a guy that prevent the opposing key guy from scoring is another. That’s something that I’ll be honed in on all season, and tried to prepare for in my workouts.
SLAM: You were just saying how you’ve played for a few coaches. How does Flip’s style differ?
CB: I mean, he’s an offensive genius. Coach Jordan’s offense was unbelievable—the Princeton offensive is an equal opportunity offense. I played for Pat Riley, and saw some of the adjustments he made on the fly and how his mind works. Flip Saunders is the same way. If he sees something, he goes to it, he milks it. He knows how to get guys going and get them in position to do some wonderful things. And you see that just in practice and preseason.
SLAM: Did you call any of the guys who’ve played for him before, like Kevin Garnett, and ask what to expect?
CB: Well I saw KG at the fight in Vegas. He said to me, ‘Man, you’re really gonna like Flip. He’s a dude that you can talk to about anything and he’s real.’ So he gave me a lot of advice on him and everything and that meant a lot. I was hearing so many good things about him and hearing everyone raving about him.
SLAM: Which fight was that, the Mayweather fight?
SLAM: Alright, alright. Actually SLAMonline just ran our Top 50 players for the coming season and we have you down as No. 28. What do you think about that spot?
CB: That’s a nice look, man. But, damn, I’m climbing the ladder; hopefully I’m higher at the end of the season.
SLAM: I mean, what are you looking for out of yourself this season?
CB: My main thing is just to be as successful as possible. Going out there and playing huge, and producing a lot of wins. Our core haven’t been together in a while, and having everyone back healthy—myself, Antawn, Gil, Brendan, DeShawn—along with the new additions is very important. So I’m looking for a big year.
SLAM: The last couple of years you’ve had some small nagging injuries. Did you do anything differently this summer to prevent that from happening again?
CB: Yeah, I got more flexible. I strengthened the smaller muscles and did a lot of injury prevention things: doing yoga, stretching more, lifting a little bit more, doing a lot of different exercises, in addition to my strength and agility training. I feel better than I ever have. And this was the first offseason that I went into being not injured in like the last three years. So that was something different.
SLAM: I asked you what you’re looking for out of yourself; but what are you looking for out of the Wizards this year?
CB: I’m looking for a big year, man. Looking to win a Title. That’s the goal, a realistic one with everybody healthy.
SLAM: I noticed that your scoring average has went up in five straight years. Can you attribute that to anything?
CB: Hard work, definitely. Just putting the time in. You know, you get out what you put in, and I’ve been putting a lot of time in the gym and it’s been paying off.
SLAM: You’ve been around for a minute now. You’ve played with a lot of vets, a lot of big names. Any of them had a large impact on you, a lasting impact?
CB: Yeah, they all did. You know, Dwyane. Kobe—being up under his wing for a while and seeing the way he works and prepares for games, I think that’s when I started having my most success, being under one of the greatest players who plays the game like him. Seeing the way Gil’ work out when I first arrived here. You know, there was something to take from all those guys.
SLAM: Do you ever feel overshadowed because you’ve played with Dwyane, Kobe, Gil. Everyone wants to talk about them; what about Caron?
CB: I mean, they do, but numbers don’t lie, and the fans know. The real basketballheads know what I go out there and do on a night-to-night basis, how I perform and how I am productive all the time. So that’s all that really matters.
SLAM: Right, right. You kind of an old head know yourself. You a team leader now?
CB: Definitely. I’ve always been a leader—off the court as well as on the court. Hopefully I can lead this team to a championship. That’s the goal.
SLAM: Coach Jordan used to call you “Tough Juice.” What’s the story with that?
CB: Yeah, he gave me the nickname “Tough Juice” a couple years back. I came to practice and he was like, ‘man, you Tough Juice. You just go hard. You go hard on the court, man. You play basketball the right way; I’ma call you Tough Juice.’ And it just stuck.