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Butler optimistic that things will turn around

The Wizards have numerous problems in the early part of the season, but in order to turn things around, the team will need more than just Antawn Jamison, Mike Miller and Randy Foye to come back healthy. They will also have to find some way for Caron Butler to find his comfort zone in Flip Saunders's new offense.

I've already written about Butler's struggles to get on the same page with Gilbert Arenas, who has the ball the majority of the time on offense and appears to be focused on scoring and getting assists, not necessarily running the whole team. Since Butler gets a lot of his scoring off the dribble, that limits Arenas's assists totals -- especially since Butler is shooting just 39.3 percent from the floor. But there appear to be times when Arenas looks off Butler. In turn, Butler sometimes forces the action when he touches the ball.

During the five game losing streak, just eight of Arenas's 27 assists were to Butler, his all-star teammate. They didn't connect at all when the Wizards lost 93-89 against Miami last week at Verizon Center. On the other side, Butler has just four assists this season, with two coming during this skid, including one to Arenas. Butler has had tunnel vision on offense, but he said that the system is designed for him to be more of a finisher.

"They put us in situations to be in [isolations] and capitalize on an opportunity, so there's no such things as hockey assists in this game," Butler said. "So I'm not going to get an assist for that: A play that led from my double-team that led to the swing-pass that led to the open jumper. I won't get credit for that, but the basketball minds know. So I'm just going to continue to go out there and do whatever I can to help this team get better, because that's all I know how to do."

In Eddie Jordan's Princeton offense, the forwards played a prominent role, which allowed Butler the chance to be more of a playmaker and get his teammates involved. He's averaged at least four assists in each of the past two seasons; now he's averaging 0.6. Butler said the assist numbers are bound to go up as his familiarity with the system grows.

"I've been in one system for four or five years, and now I'm getting adjusted and more accustomed to another system," he said. "Once I realize what I can do in the spots that I'm in and having our guys whole and seeing what situation's what, 20 games in, we'll revisit this and see where it's at."

Saunders was asked about Butler's low assist numbers and he blamed it on the Wizards' poor shooting as a team. The Wizards are shooting just 43.5 percent, which ranks 23rd in the league. "You can't get an assist, if you don't make shots," he said. "It will come."

While no one is pleased that the Wizards are 2-6, Butler said that now is not the time for alarm. "It's still early for everybody. We just have to continue to play together," Butler said. "It's not going to be one individual making heroic plays to save us. That's the type of team we have. We don't need nobody to be extra spectacular, we just need everybody to stay together, stay on the same page and play together. Just continue to believe in the system."

Butler is averaging just 16.9 points, his lowest scoring average since coming to Washington, but he also is doing other things, such as rebounding. His 7.9 boards are the most since his arrival, and he did an excellent job of taking Quentin Richardson out of the game on Tuesday in Miami, where he pitched a complete-game shutout.

"I'm going where the coaching staff is telling me where to go. I'm going to continue to be aggressive and pick and choose my spots," he said. "But at the same time, on a team like this, like I said, I'm not needed to score 25 points a night because we have so much firepower. We've got to get everybody comfortable and make the plays."

Jamison didn't practice on Thursday, sitting out with an illness. But he is expected to go full-contact on Friday for the first time since the season began. Saunders said he should be able to play on Saturday against Detroit. Mike Miller participated in non-contact drills and said if he is able to go full-contact on Friday, Miller might be able to suit up against the Pistons as well.

Jamison could help both Butler and Arenas get more assists, with his ability to spread the floor and hit unorthodox shots. Miller could certainly help with the ball movement, since he can unselfish to a fault at times. "We have guys injured so it's going to happen, and when it happens it's going to be fun to watch," Butler said of the offense clicking. "You saw a glimpse of it in the Dallas game, and hopefully we'll get back to that when we have Antawn healthy and Mike Miller and Randy Foye and all those guys, and we're going to have a great year."

The return of more healthy bodies may also help Saunders limit the number of minutes he's playing both Butler and Arenas, who are playing close to 37 minutes a game. Saunders said he'd like them to play closer to 33 minutes.

"When you get down with numbers, the players feel they have to pace themselves. So by pacing themselves, they don't play aggressive and they kind of coast and they don't play as aggressive," Saunders said. "That's when you have turnovers that are unforced turnovers because they're just not as mentally alert because you're trying to save yourself, like, 'I've got to play 40 minutes tonight.' so that's why if we can get them down to those 32, 33, they can play with the energy they need to in those minutes and be more effective.

Saunders added that the Wizards playing just two home games over 12 days should do wonders for his team and provide some stability. "Since we had training camp 43 days ago, we've been on the road, sleeping in another bed 32 days. I've never seen anything like that," he said. "They just need to get into a rhythm. I hope we can be able to do that, playing at home."

By Michael Lee  |  November 12, 2009; 7:11 PM ET
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Go Wiz!

Posted by: ptp23 | November 12, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

keep your head up Caron and pass the ball when you do. we're rooting for you.

Posted by: tgif11 | November 12, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm so very glad CARON is optomistic about the season. A repost of some of my thoughts on the last game.

"......The word is out on ARENAS. He's not the player who can take over a game anymore. Unfortunately he doesn't know it, and his play last night in the second half was closer to NICK YOUNG's awfulense and defense than BRENDAN's supurb game.

I'm aware that I saw too much to like in BRENDAN's, 'DRAY's and McGUIRE's games and too much to hate in ARENAS' and BUTLER's. And it was good to finally see the beginnings of life in DeSHAWN's, especially on defense.

ARENAS surely and maybe BUTLER also should be dealt, then a new game instituted in the WIZARDS backcourt featuring a real point guard (CRITTER is the closest we have right now). Outlandish, but I've said it here before, and ARENAS rubber-stamped it last night, his style when he goes rogue free-lance is a cancer to good play on this team.

If FLIP can get him to play the shoot when open, assist, move without the ball, man-up D, rotate when necessary in help defense, like he did in the first quarter of last night's game, the WIZ could win a lot of games. The question is, like last night, will he? The answer lies in his ego, and the fact that old habits - bad ones - are hard to break.

Posted by: glawrence007 | November 12, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse


From the amount of posts or should I write the lack of posts, I don't think the fans are as optimistic.

After AJ went down I knew the team would start slow, but now I wonder if the team when healthy will be a top tier playoff team?

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | November 12, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

"For D. Blair's sake, thank goodness the Wizards did not keep him on the team because he would have had a major career ending knee injury by now. Go and have a great 18 year career, Blair, and always remember that you were just a decision away from having no career!

Posted by: JohnWWW | November 12, 2009 11:13 PM | Report abuse "

I wonder if there are more players that Les BouleS gave up on and then blossomed somewhere else or more players that came here with promise but became busts.

Let's start a list of players that came here with some promise but ended up being busts.

Ike Austin
Mark Price
Lorenzo Williams
Mitch Richmond
Moses Malone

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | November 12, 2009 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Well, I'm disappointed in the poor start but it is early. I suppose my dream of a 50 win season are out the window.
Nevertheless, next weeks' Cavs/Wiz game at Verizon Center, with all the love triangle rumors and the already contentious atmosphere this town develops when the Cavs come to town, has the makings for one of those ugly episodes David Stern wants to avoid.

The incredible irony in all this is that the "feud" between DeShawn and LeTravel started over a female.

Posted by: bozomoeman | November 13, 2009 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Caron's hustle has been great this season. He has gained the Wizards a few extra possessions through his hard work.

Still, the 19 turnovers with 4 assists are not a winning formula. Neither is the 3 for 17 from 3-point range, which is killing his FG percentage (and effectively the same thing as a turnover).

Hopefully, this is a case of just working out the kinks; although it would probably be better for the team if Caron was able to take more shots without putting the ball on the floor. In limited action this year the offensive flow has seemed better with Miller at SF especially when Arenas and Foye are on the court. The stats seem to bear this out in limited action.

Posted by: JPRS | November 13, 2009 12:57 AM | Report abuse


Moses Malone wasn't a bust. He was our best player both years he was here. He also made the allstar team both years.

Posted by: MeviousMan | November 13, 2009 1:01 AM | Report abuse

training/medical staff of the washington wizards= subpar...

washington wizards players health= subpar...

If your training staff is subpar then you better have competent backups when your starters get hurt...

do the wizards have competent players on the bench= subpar...

wizards record= 2-6.

it all adds up people...numbers don't lie...

you do the math...

point...address the medical/training staff currently being utilized by teaching them how to keep the key players strong and on the court and you will also see your win/loss total start to even out...the wiz do have a talented squad...

if the training staff could just keep them on the court and out of the training room...

not their only problem...but definitely a key problem.

Posted by: ronniecope106 | November 13, 2009 1:41 AM | Report abuse

Caron should have a red light on 3 pt shots. He simply does not make enough of them and never has really. Add in his usual 3/4 turnovers a game with dwindling assists - just not good. It's like this team is getting all the bad and none of the good for the most part on offense thus far from virtually every player.

Posted by: rphilli721 | November 13, 2009 1:49 AM | Report abuse

caron is not the problem...caron is forced into the position that he know occupies...the problem is miller/jamison not being on the court...those two represent leadership and toughness for the wiz...these guys are going to be at the forefront if the wiz are to be successful...caron feeds off these guys and benefits from their basketball iq...gil is too quirky and is coming off almost two seasons of not playing nba-level ball...forget about gil for at least another 15-20 games because he will be a will only see glimpses...even after the wiz are full strength it is going to take another 10-15 games b4 they start to gel (hopefully it's not to late-the hole is not too deep) the injuries have really staggered this team (i'd still question and blame the medical/training staff)'s only 8 games in but severe damage to this teams mental acumen(please keep the medical/training staff away from that part of the team :-) could create a negative landslide if they don't get some wins/confidence soon re: washington redskins...let's go wiz!!it's starts in detroit on saturday...(LUCKILY for the wiz they don't play tonight--FRIDAY the 13th :-) peace yall...

Posted by: ronniecope106 | November 13, 2009 3:20 AM | Report abuse

Mitch Richmond wasn't really a bust either--just old. He was pretty good his first year.

Posted by: IrenePollin | November 13, 2009 5:26 AM | Report abuse

"Ike Austin
Mark Price
Lorenzo Williams
Mitch Richmond
Moses Malone"

Promise? Price, Richmond, and Malone were finished products edging into the downslope of their careers (Mark was in his 9th season, Mitch his 10th, and Moses his 11th). Lo Williams averaged 3 points and 6 boards over his career with five different clubs, and if any one trait defined him, it was that 38% from the FT line.

You might accuse the Wiz of failing to develop Webber and Wallace. But not the above listed guys.

Posted by: Samson151 | November 13, 2009 5:50 AM | Report abuse

What makes anyone think the Bullets are going to turn the corner this year. Arenas is a disruption to the max and injuries are a killer every year with this team. Not to mention Saunders hasn't done anything as a coach in this league.

Posted by: hessone | November 13, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Either we have to choose that with the injury problem, we are see the light at the end of the tunnel and will be out of the tunnel when Jamison, Miller, and Foye return and OR that the wizards team with Gil, Caron, and Jamison will always have their seasons ruined by injuries.

If you look at how many guards are out when we tried got insurance policies for Gil it is so funny I can cry. J-Critt, James, Foye, and Miller(who helps facilitate). WOW! That is being ridiculously snakebitten. How many insurance policies do we need? We need more at guard.

Posted by: G-Man11 | November 13, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Welcome Back Flipshot!

Posted by: millineumman | November 13, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Arenas isn't Arenas because Shaq's been stroking his fiance. Who can get concentrate when that sh*t is happening?

Posted by: fushezzi | November 13, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

In the past, Butler got most of his assist by passing to the cutting Jamison, so his assists down and rebounds up (the slack Jamison's absence left behind) are kind of expected.

About the team's problems, some of them are due to learning a system, so having players back will not automatically solved the problem. They need time to practice together, and the injuries took that opportunity away.

Posted by: sagaliba | November 13, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

LIke I said yesterday, Gilbert can't blow by defenders anymore, face that fact, he hogs the ball, goes to the lane and gets his shot blocked and he lands on his rear or he runs into people as a walking offensive foul (ala John Drew..look his name up)or gets the ball stripped. Meanwhile, his team mates (a loose term indeed) stand around since they know there is only a quantum chance he will send the ball to the wings or baseline for open shots. So, that what you get. Turn Gil back to a shooting guard.

Posted by: nowhine | November 13, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

i'm in agreement that what we're seeing from Gil is a guy who doesnt care about bball fully right now, with his personal life crumbling around him in a most embarassing manner.

hopefully he can relatively quickly, but it will be tough

Posted by: divi3 | November 13, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Arenas isn't Arenas because Shaq's been stroking his fiance. Who can get concentrate when that sh*t is happening?

Posted by: fushezzi | November 13, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

somebody told me to crawl in the sewer the other da for bringing that up. it was actually tuesday before the game..........before gil had a career high 12 TOs. i think it's clear where my man's head is at. i can't wait for wednesday's cavs wiz matchup.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | November 13, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Trade Caron and the Wiz medical staff for a second round pick and be done with it.

Posted by: awb9h | November 13, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I think Gil cares about basketball, it's just that he's dealing with diminished skills from a 2-year hiatus (and I'm not ready to say he won't regain his skills at some point), a role in a new system that may not be a good fit for his skill-set (current or past), injuries to guys that could take pressure off him and some decidedly painful personal issues as well.

Posted by: ArmChairQB | November 13, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Gil has lost a step. He lost his top-end speed, third gear. You see it when he is getting people are catching up to him compared to pre-injury.

I tore my knee up playing ball and I thought I was as fast as before until I raced my son and I could feel a slight limp when at top speed.

It is not a problem when he goes to the basket because he is not going top speed anyway.

The real problem with his game is rust and getting re-aclimated to NBA game intensity. That is why you see him doing better in the first half compared to second half. I wonder what he will be like after the all-star break when intensity is kicked up a notch and then the playoffs when it is kicked up again. Hopefully he can shed the rust quickly.

Posted by: G-Man11 | November 13, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

g-man, did u train with tim grover before you raced yer kid? i'm just asking, wade's first year backk after knee surgery and training with grover he was back, but not all the way back. this year wade is all the way back and looks twice as explosive. i think gil can make a full return to Agent Zero form after getting through this season and another summer with Grover. he's still good, but some athletes say when your "physical" fails u, use your "mental" or mind over matter. well right now Gil's mind ain't right. and if yall don't think domestic issues with 3 young kids involved can sidetrack a guy yall have another thing coming. Gil's always been looked at as quirky, but this type of thing can send an emotionally fragile person over the edge.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | November 13, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I think we need to see how the team jells with Jamision back on the court. Caron and Arenas but rely heavily on Jamison's ability to spread the floor, hit open 3's, and score on back door cuts. Right now, Arenas and Butler are forcing things with Jamison, Miller, and Foye out hurt. I'd rather evaluate this team after another 15-20 games before jumping to conclusions that we're in for a bad season.

As for the personal stuff, I think a lot of that is rumors and doubt its affecting Arenas' play. The bigger problem is he is being forced to play 35-40 minutes a night instead of around 30 due to injuries to Foye, James, and Crittenton. I applaud Ernie for getting a legit veteran NBA point guard in Boykins to give us some depth and speed in the backcourt. I don't think any of our other PG's can provide that element.

Posted by: wizfan89 | November 13, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Arenas has looked good this season.

This Shaq-infidelity nonsense is just silliness.

Arenas has something like one turnover in the first half of the last game. He had 11 in the second half.

That says to me: "Fatigue" or "Timing". Even if that off-the-court stuff is an issue off-the-court. The basketball court is the place you go to forget those things.

Posted by: JPRS | November 13, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse


naw, I aint train with Grover. And I do have hope that Gil can regain his top end speed after another year with Grover. It does effect you mentally as you tend to watch your landing.

As for his mental fragility, Gil has rejection issues already and needs attention, thanks to his mother. That is the whole basis for his going from a zero to hero second round pick stuff. He always has something to prove. This new drama could break him, but I doubt it.

By the way, doesn't it seem that he has almost as much hate around here as Kwame?

Posted by: G-Man11 | November 13, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

all day that gman! folks def hate on Gil as if he got a 100 mil contract and played like my boy NY. Folks can't get past him signing the deal and then missing all that time. Gil and Larry put the wiz back on the map, but all the luv for the resurgence goes to grunfeld. Gil mad the wiz worth talking about. the hate is crazy.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | November 13, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

"You might accuse the Wiz of failing to develop Webber . . . "

Which would be an incredibly foolish accusation, given that Webber was an All-Star with the Wiz and averaged about 21 ppg, 9 rpg, 5 apg and 2 bpg during his 4 years in DC. The only things he seemed not to develop in D.C. were maturity and common sense, and that's hardly the fault of the organization.

Posted by: kalo_rama | November 13, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse


Moses Malone wasn't a bust. He was our best player both years he was here. He also made the allstar team both years.

Posted by: MeviousMan | November 13, 2009 1:01 AM | Report abuse "

Were you alive when he came here?

I recall his press conference when he showed up saying he had only one championship ring and 5 fingers.

He got his numbers here, and then went on to play elsewhere. Didn't get any rings here.

So, his impact here was.....bust.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | November 13, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

"Promise? Price, Richmond, and Malone were finished products edging into the downslope of their careers (Mark was in his 9th season, Mitch his 10th, and Moses his 11th). Lo Williams averaged 3 points and 6 boards over his career with five different clubs, and if any one trait defined him, it was that 38% from the FT line.

You might accuse the Wiz of failing to develop Webber and Wallace. But not the above listed guys.

Posted by: Samson151 | November 13, 2009 5:50 AM | Report abuse "

So why did Les BouleS bring these has beens here then?

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | November 13, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

By that logic, every player who's ever worn a Bullets/Wizards uniform but didn't win a title was a "bust."

Posted by: kalo_rama | November 13, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

"By that logic, every player who's ever worn a Bullets/Wizards uniform but didn't win a title was a "bust."

Posted by: kalo_rama | November 13, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse "

That's your logic.

My logic is the false hope associated with bringing in a "big name" as a key to a turnaround/championship glory. Unfortunately, that player was really past his prime that didn't work out so good after all.

Moses Malone talking about coming here and getting more rings. Whatever.

I recall John Nash making a run at Mark Price for 5 years/$5 mil when he was still good. I think the Cavs matched that offer easily.

A few years later, Les BouleS were proud of themselves for finally getting Mark Price. An injury called plantar fasciitis ended all that nonsense/hope if there was really hope there to begin with.

Then there was the the Mitch Richmond trade and all that bunk surrounding his heyday with Run TMC. Whatever.

Then there was the much ballyhooed talk by Les BouleS and Wilbon about acquiring Ike Austin for Ben Wallace and how a no brainer that was. Well...the rest of that is history too.

Of course, how about having the greatest player of all time playing on your team in hopes of a turnaround? Yes, that be MJ. He was so good that Abe gave him the royal boot out of town.

I'm sure there's more, but I'll relent on kicking Les BouleS any more for tonight.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | November 13, 2009 11:47 PM | Report abuse

I've said it before and I will say it again. We should never have resigned Arenas. He is a gunner (scores a lot of points) but shoots for a low percentage. Best case scenario we make the playoffs with this guy and get to round 2 of playoffs. BEST CASE SCENARIO!!!!

Although he was injured last year-he still made over 14 million dollars last year. When you consider he scored 26 points all season that comes to $538,461 per point. Yes over half a million a point and more than a million per basket. Agent 0- Hibachi or robber. We have all our eggs in one basket and he has all the money in the bank.

We have made stupid moves for so long that I can no longer root for the Bullets-Wizards. We acquired Chris "Timeout" Weber for 3- THREE number 1 draft picks and Tom Gugliotta. Weber thought he was GM and begged us to acquire the true "choke artist" Latrell Sprewell. Meanwhile Sprewell is manufacturing four-fours so that poor ghetto kids can aspire to be like drug dealers with fancy rims.

We get rid of Rasheed Wallace – the best draft pick we have had since Wes Unseld. As I said , you cannot build a team around Arenas as he is a “tweener” sizewise and he just aint that good. He puts little or no extra fannies in the seats and doesn’t lead us to many victories. Our home attendance is abysmal – always 23-30 in the league. Trust me our road attendance is even worse.

I have since moved to San Antonio and have the pleasure of seeing a class organization now, the Spurs. I still love the Redskins and even the hapless Nats and as a native Washingtonian have never given up on a DC team. I never cared for hockey as it seems like pro-wrestling to me. I am the ultimate homer but I finally give up on the Wizards. How can you call your team the Wizards when you are representing “chocolate city.” Maybe they should become the Bullets again and Pollin should call it a career.
Cut the crap- specifically Arenas and his salary and start with good draft choices. By the way Jamison and Butler are fine – but Arenas doesn’t fit this puzzle.

Posted by: rickywarner49 | November 17, 2009 5:01 AM | Report abuse

By the way - Labron is an idiot for suggesting that nobody wear number 23 again. Chicago should retire it and that is all. People other than the Celtics still use number 6- Bill Russell's number -who I consider to be the best of all time.
LaBron- you may think you know basketball history but there are many great ones you have never seen. Shutup, play ball and see if you can take it all with ol' fatback Shaq.

Posted by: rickywarner49 | November 17, 2009 5:14 AM | Report abuse

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