Caron Butler, the Flu and a Wiz Win
Before tonight's Wizards-Pacers game, I went up to Nate and Besse, two of my favorite Wiz fans, and asked why they were here, watching two bad NBA teams, on as beautiful a February evening as D.C. will ever see. They told me they hadn't missed a game all season, and weren't about to start now.
Well, after an ill Caron Butler went all MJ in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 straight points in less than four minutes without missing a shot, and after a sleepy and borderline comatose crowd suddenly turned into some whooping remnant of the glory days, and after Caron laid prone on the court with his head in the first row of seats after winning the game, and after his teammates sprinted out to mob him, Nate came running down to the media section.
"Steinberg!" he yelled at me. "That's why we still come to games."
That'll play. And Caron's thoughts?
"To have a nice crowd in here and to see that after the last two games, it's very rewarding for the fans," he said. "And that's what this city deserves, a lot of hard work out there on the court and to get Ws. It's our time to turn this thing around."
For the record, Caron's head came to rest at the feet of Rob Welch and Dan Bender. They stayed out on the court after the players had left, telling stories.
"He fell right down between my legs," Bender told me, "and I tapped him on the shoulder and said, Awesome!' "
"They was rubbing my head, telling me all the good things I needed to hear," Caron added. "Because I've been called a lot of things over the last couple of months."
He wasn't the only one who needed the good stuff.
"I cried tonight," his wife, Andrea Butler, told me. "It was like we were in the Finals. I don't know what happened, I got a little emotional. The whole fourth quarter was so good, I just got really emotional. I was just happy to see the crowd get back into it."
So about Caron's sickness. Three days of lying on his back, getting up only to go to the bathroom and the doctor's office, and three bags of IV fluids. He said he was awake for maybe four hours a day, that this was the sickest he's been in six years, and that he still felt....well, "messed up," we'll say. I asked Andrea about his get-well routine.
"Did I make him anything special? I made a run to CVS for him: TheraFlu and Excedrin," she said. "You could lie and say I made him chicken noodle soup, that might sound good. I kept giving him orange juice because I thought that would make him feel better, but that made him throw up, so I switched and gave him ginger ale."
Today was day four, and "most people are still in bed," Andrea said. "But he woke up this morning, looked at me and said, 'I'm ready.' "
Did he feel ill during the game?
"I think he still do," Nick Young said. "He said he felt like he wanted to throw up a little bit. But he's trying to get that MJ system going on."
Was he tired?
"Yeah, definitely, but I wasn't gonna come out," Caron said. "I wasn't gonna let coach know I was tired. Every time he made eye contact with me, I tried to seem as bright as I could, just trying to stay out there, will our way through, and that's what happened."
After the game winner, Caron said he needed his teammates to help drag him off the court. If the team's record had been better, he said, he might have gone running into the crowd or leaping on the scorer's table. But after going head-to-head with All-Star Danny Granger and coming out on top, he wasn't backing away from what he'd said last week.
"I know I'm an All-Star," he said. "And obviously the record don't prove that, so that's why we're in the situation that we're in, myself and Antawn. But we're gonna continue to perform as All-Stars."
(Young agreed; "he showed that he should have been an All-Star," Young said.)
I asked Butler about that whole MJ thing; "that was nice, right?" he said. But his best comment was probably his first: "Agent Zero style," he said.
(Oh, and I forgot to ask Caron anything about straws, but I did have a word with Andrea about flu straw-chewing.
"He had a few straws but not as many as normal," she noted. "He had maybe three for the day, instead of 10.)
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