A Lesson in Rebounding
SLAMonline speaks with Miami rookie Da’Sean Butler.
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
Da’Sean Butler has had a roller-coaster start to his NBA career. From an injury—tragically timed on a national stage during the last game of his college career—to a touching moment with his coach, he suddenly had a whole new fan base in his corner. But new fans don’t equal a guaranteed draft selection, despite the impressive body of work during his four-year college career at West Virginia.
Butler ended up getting drafted by a completely gutted Miami Heat team that had previously launched a “We Want Wade” campaign in hopes of retaining the services of its franchise player. After Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James transformed Miami from uncertainty to a powerhouse, the roster quickly filled with veterans clamoring for a chance to have a role in something special. Those implications for Butler, the 42nd pick in the 2010 Draft, could not be ignored. Rehabbing a torn ACL, he went from being drafted to a team in complete flux to having to fight for a roster spot. If the road to getting to the NBA wasn’t easy, staying in it looks harder.
As I’ve noted before, so much of the NBA–and who makes it–is circumstantial. While the first few chapters in his early career seem straight out of a movie, Butler still has the opportunity to make good. And for that, he is grateful.
SLAM: When you look back at pictures of yourself from the injury at the Final Four, what comes to your mind now?
Da’Sean Butler: I would say probably being disappointed that I got hurt at the time. I wouldn’t say it was more anger or anything like that, I would just say disappointed being that I only had honestly one game or two games left to play as far as starting my NBA career—on the start to my NBA career, whatever the case may be and stuff. It was just a little bump in the road for me.
SLAM: You kind of captured the hearts of America. What is it like to feel that kind of support?
DB: It was great just to know that all those people felt some type of way about that situation or understood or just be sympathetic about it so obviously that’s a great feeling to have, people that are behind you hoping or wishing you a fast recovery.
SLAM: Did anyone unexpected reach out to you after your injury?
DB: Yeah, I got a letter from Kansas. Coaches from Kansas sent me a letter saying that they hope I got back, you know hope I had a fast recovery, get back safely and things like that, get back to playing soon and take my time with my recovery. And I was kind of surprised being that, you know, I haven’t really had any ties with Kansas ever. It was pretty out of nowhere…I felt good hearing that from somebody that I had no ties.
SLAM: How is rehab going?
DB: Rehab is going great, just taking my time, day by day. It’s just a one-day battle. Just focus on what you do that day, rest, and then you do the same thing the next day. So, it’s going great.
SLAM: Do you have a timetable for when you can get cleared for basketball activities?
DB: No, the doctors say when my leg is stronger and when my knee gets a little bit more strong, they’ll let me know depending on what I’m doing…they’ll let me know my timetable.
SLAM: When the Heat drafted you 42nd, the team was in flux, they didn’t know if Dwyane Wade would sign. What were your thoughts heading there?
DB: Honestly, I was excited just to get an opportunity to play for a team. And a team like this—they came off a championship probably three, three or four years ago. I was just happy about that and not many people get an opportunity to play with many superstars or legends and great coaches and a great coaching staff and this is an organization that has those things.
SLAM: Did you watch “The Decision” special?
SLAM: What were your thoughts knowing LeBron would be your future teammate?
DB: You know, obviously very excited. Many people don’t get the opportunity to play with one superstar—let alone three, you know, NBA All-Stars. Plus, there are other great players on our team as well. It was just a good moment for the organization. Tip your hat off to Pat Riley and (Sr. VP & Assistant GM) Andy [Elisburg] for getting those guys…it was an eye-opening couple of weeks after [LeBron] said he was coming.
SLAM: You went from being drafted to a team with practically no roster to having to fight for a roster spot. What is that like?
DB: Honestly, at this point in my life I kind of realized I’m not going to be the person choosing. Obviously, somebody else is going to be making the decisions and all I can do is just do what they ask me to do to the best of my ability. I can’t sit back and complain about, Oh I got to do this and that, because I was given the opportunity to be in the NBA—you know that’s a childhood dream I had since I was a kid–so I can’t really complain about it.
SLAM: I heard you say that once you got the opportunity to get in the NBA, you won’t get out. Do you still feel that’s very possible?
DB: Obviously it’s a possibility of getting out looking at my circumstance, but when I’m healthy I feel like I can stay–that’s how hard I will work or what I will do to stay. That’s just me being healthy, you know as of now, I don’t know what the future may bring so I can’t really predict what’ll happen or what won’t happen.
SLAM: How challenging as a rookie will it be to potentially be on a roster with three of the game’s top players? What do you think your role will be?
DB: Honestly, whatever coaches/veterans tell me to do, that’ll be my role. I don’t know exactly what it’ll be, but whatever they need from me, that’s what I’ll be able to do and I’ll do it to the best of my ability.
SLAM: But you’ll get the chance to practice with and be mentored by some of the best players.
DB: Exactly. You know that’s the main thing anyway…understanding what I need to do, learning from Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem and Pat Riley…as a player, you always want to learn things. I have a lot more to learn, to pick up from them.
SLAM: Has anyone from the Heat reached out to you, given you some good advice?
DB: Every day, I’ve been here every day. Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Big Z they’re always telling me things, what not to do…why you shouldn’t do things. Learning from all of them…it’s a great experience.
SLAM: Does any specific advice stand out?
DB: I would just say more like just life lessons as far as finding your first place, what you should do or how you should work or how you should save your money…just explaining things might work out for me but not for them and vice versa.
SLAM: Most NBA-ready aspect of your game?
DB: I would just say, just knowing the game. Knowing what I can and can’t do, not forcing things and just playing smart. I would probably say that would be my biggest upside to my game as of right now.
SLAM: Anything that you know you need to work on?
DB: I haven’t shot many NBA threes, so I would probably say my consistency behind the three-point line in the NBA.
SLAM: You got drafted one spot before your West Virginia teammate Devin Ebanks. You both are on teams with pretty established stars (Ebanks signed with the Lakers). Do you discuss your futures in the NBA together?
DB: Oh yeah, most definitely, we joke around all the time. We talk to each other about playing one-on-one before the game because we probably won’t play as much during the game. We just joke around, say things like that, but he has a bright future ahead of him, hopefully I have a bright one ahead of me. And we always talk about the ‘ifs,’ and ‘what ifs’ and what not, things like that. He’s with his team and he got signed and I got signed so I’m just really happy for him.
SLAM: Are you most excited to face Ebanks in the NBA? Anyone else you’re looking forward to playing against?
DB: I most definitely look forward to playing against the guys I’ve been playing with in the USA team last summer. A lot of those guys I have a really good relationship with and I’m really good friends with so players Trevor Booker, Evan Turner, Quincy Pondexter, so guys like that.
SLAM: Have you had to make any adjustments as an NBA player?
DB: Everything’s kind of like microscoped a little bit more than it was before…just be cautious about what you do and what you say things like that, I’d say that would be the biggest adjustment.
SLAM: Is there anything that people don’t know about you that you think they should?
DB: I’m really goofy…I’m an extreme goof…that would be probably the biggest thing.
SLAM: Do you still keep in touch with your college coaches?
DB: Most definitely, I’m just coming back from West Virginia for the football game and then hanging out with my old teammates and college coaches and things like that. I’m really tight with that whole group.