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With trade rumors swirling, Butler has best game

Wizards 92, Magic 91

Caron Butler's name has been mentioned in trade rumors for almost a year, and the talk has only intensified with the Feb. 18 trade deadline less than two weeks away. He's been rumored to be headed to Dallas, to Houston, to the Los Angeles Clippers, to New Jersey, to Portland, to Phoenix.

"I'm popular," Butler said with a smile after scoring a season-high 31 points, including the game-winning jumper with 0.5 seconds remaining, against the Orlando Magic on Friday. "I've always been a popular kid, since middle school, I've been bigger than everybody. I'm very popular right now."

Butler has had a disappointing season, with him struggling to develop chemistry with Gilbert Arenas, looking uncomfortable in Flip Saunders's offense and upset over his role within it. Throw in Arenas's season-ending suspension and his continued troubles to adjust and it was easy to see that he was unhappy and this season couldn't end soon enough for him. He never complained publicly, but the worn expression on his face said it all.

"It's been hard to focus. It really has," Butler said. "You can say all the right things, about staying positive and moving forward, but it has been hard. It takes a toll on you mentally and physically. This is the only time that you can escape from all of that."

It's been a while since Butler was in a rhythm like he was in Orlando, where he shot 10 for 16 and scored 29 points in the second half. He was repeatedly blowing by Vince Carter, Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus for layups, or pulling up over them for jumpers. "We tried all three of our bigger wing guys on Butler," Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He killed them all."

"It was by far his best game overall," said Coach Flip Saunders, who met with Butler for about 15 minutes on Thursday. "We had a little talk in the weight room, just about leadership and taking charge and trying to be more of a vocal leader and not taking a step back, but taking a step forward. He was very receptive. He said he was going to relish the opportunity to step up and do that."

Butler hadn't scored at least 30 points since the season finale in Boston last April. He had missed the previous game against the New York Knicks after bumping knees with Paul Pierce on Monday. And he looked out of sorts in the first half, as he missed 5 of 6 shots and scored just two points. But in the second half, Butler took the ball to basket and got to the foul line, where he was 8 for 8. He also made a ridiculous, one-handed runner off the glass while Jameer Nelson grabbed his left arm.

"Caron was unbelievable tonight," Randy Foye said. "He played his heart out."

Foye did the same, as he also overcame a difficult first half to score 20 of his 22 points in the second half. Saunders benched Foye after the Wizards fell behind by 21 points in the first quarter. "Whatever happened in the first half, I put it behind me. I was thinking, when I get back in, I just wanted to attack, attack, attack, as much as I can. That was my mentality, my mindset. To be aggressive. Why play on your heels?"

In turn, Foye and Butler had the Magic on their heels.

Afterward, Butler was asked about the possibility of the Wizards being broken up at the deadline. "Anything is possible," Butler said. "Anything can happen."

When asked if this game was an opportunity for him to showcase himself to the rest of the league Butler said, "Hopefully it keeps the ownership that we have interested and I stay here."

But wouldn't he like to be a part of a winning situation? "We'll turn this into a winning situation," he said. "I want to finish what we started, definitely."

Butler added that he's not worried about being traded, but sounded like someone who has accepted the fact that might not have many more games in a Wizards uniform. "I understand it's business. You take the bitter with the sweet and try to have some magnificent moments before the deadline," he said. "I'll always view Washington as home. I had a great time here. I had the most success I ever had. I feel like the city adopted me with open arms, like never before. I'm a Washingtonian. We'll see what happens, but whatever happens, I'll always love the city."

By Michael Lee  |  February 6, 2010; 12:20 AM ET
 
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Comments

Didn’t see the game and won’t unless the Wizards are on a nationally televised game…like that’s going to happen anytime soon?

I’ll be back in the DC area around April once the snow is gone just in time to see them make that final playoff push?

My guess is they won’t make any major trades and Ernie will tell Flip to play CB and AJ 40 minutes a night, hoping to sneak into the 7th or 8th playoff spot, so they can try to save their jobs.

Of course they won’t, which means they’ll end up with the 10th or 11th pick in the draft?

I’m sure the new owner will be thrilled with the mess he is buying?

I am one fan who is willing to support the new owner (whoever he or she is, unless it’s Irene) as long as Ernie gets his walking papers and the new owner shows a commitment to winning a championship.

I fully understand it will take at least 5 years to fix the problems and change the attitude of the organization after the way Abe and Ernie have run things.

Adios en vaya con dios

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | February 6, 2010 1:01 AM | Report abuse

"I'm popular," Butler said

It's clear CB doesn't read Mike's blog

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | February 6, 2010 1:03 AM | Report abuse

I've been as hard as any on Caron, but he demonstrated a lot of class with his comments. He also played a phenomenal game tonight and finally got his hero moment (LOL). Kudos to you Mr. Butler -- now keep up the improved play!

Posted by: bazookajoe1 | February 6, 2010 3:35 AM | Report abuse

it's the coach

Posted by: zengomi | February 6, 2010 4:36 AM | Report abuse

Did ANY Wizards fans see the whole game to the end???
Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: cmecyclist | February 6, 2010 5:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad the Wizards won, but more important how is the team purchase going? I hope the Pollin family do not replicate what happened to the Cook family. Where they allowed a non football billionaire purchase the team and then run it into the ground. I hope that Mr. Leonis is able to purchase the team outright.

Posted by: galaxies42 | February 6, 2010 6:16 AM | Report abuse

such a fun game- we had tickets to the caps, but couldn't make it due to the snow, so we hunkered down and watched the wiz. Very impressed with the whole team's effort in the second, third and fourth quarters.

Posted by: cberg1 | February 6, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Looked at the box score and saw this guy name McGee with 8 minutes. Who is this guy? :)

Posted by: fearturtle44 | February 6, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

"Adios en vaya con diosPosted by: bulletsfan78"

??

Posted by: Samson151 | February 6, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Did ANY Wizards fans see the whole game to the end???
Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: cmecyclist | February 6, 2010 5:37 AM

-------

Sure, good game. But I must admit I watch all of them, beginning to end, good or not.|

Posted by: fansincebullets | February 6, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

CB had a sick move to hit the game winner. Fake the hard drive to Barnes, then stop, pull up and hit the jumper. I was looking forward to going to the game tonight, but no way with the snow here.

Posted by: Section102 | February 6, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

In all the talk about trades of this player or that and what will Ernie do, the question that I think is most important and the one that no good reporting is going on about is - What would Ted do? Leonsis has proven in business and sports ownership that he knows how to develop a strategic plan and execute it. The best thing that can happen to the Wizards is to have this ownership question (it’s Ted’s group period) settled ASAP – before Ernie or the Pollins do anything. I don’t want to see another round of quality players leave DC to star elsewhere over these same issues of character and worse mismanagement (it might be the coach – and the GM). C’mon all you sports reporters – what’s goin on?

Posted by: Wittan | February 6, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Can someone ask CB why he took it to the rack so much last night, but generally has failed to do so for most of this season? Health problem? Motivation? Mind games in Flip's offense?

2nd half last night he was the player he's been in the past for us...why not more often?

Posted by: divi3 | February 6, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I agree. CB was the CB of old. That is why, I would not want to trade him. On a new team, he would probably be more motivated to be the player he had been. And we would not have received fair value for him. Expiring contracts are not for me. The STARS would not sign with the Wiz. I think AJ is tired and hurt. The All Star break will be good for him.
Yes, I watched every minute of the game. I did think they would come back from the 21 point deficit, but I did not think they would win. Nice to see McGee get some PT.

Posted by: Bailey51 | February 6, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

It's almost like he just realized that this is the month he gets out of basketball purgatory.

Posted by: tgif11 | February 6, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I saw this one from beginning to end. I do catch a lot of them. Some I get peices of.

Had it not been for Butler's shot at the end a good effort would have been lost by dimwitted defense.

Dimwitted defense has nothing to do with skill and everything to do with smarts.

Jamison backed off his man on the ball side of the court and he promptly hit a wide open three.

This Team has gotten villified for bad defense for quite some time and for not being tough and not having the size and talents needed for good defense.

Butchasee', the reason why I have been an Offense guy is because, though talent is important, good defense comes mostly from desire and smarts.

Even with good defensive talent, without desire and smarts, it won't get you far.

Based upon our luck, I was hugely surprised that CB's shot went down. His Offense in this game won it and it was almost undone by a studid defensive play by Jamison.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | February 6, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"stupid" instead of studid

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | February 6, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"Even with good defensive talent, without desire and smarts, it won't get you far."

The same is just as true of offense.

Posted by: kalo_rama | February 6, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Can someone ask CB why he took it to the rack so much last night, but generally has failed to do so for most of this season? Health problem? Motivation? Mind games in Flip's offense?

Butler hasn't been the same since Jordan left. He's playing to get traded. There was a report earlier in the season about him trying on different shoes to support an injured ankle, so that's probably contributed to his poor play. And it seemed like Flip was trying to make Caron into a catch and shoot type player which he isn't. And having that borderline cancer BTH go after him in the media didn't help either.

Posted by: djnnnou | February 6, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

there are multiple reasons for Butler's strugle this season.
1/ bad habit learned from the previous bad season and bad coaching.
2/ Injuries
3/Flip's demand to make him a diffrent player. He told him to be the best defenssive player of the team & asked him for instant shooting .
4/ Arenas comment
5/ every thing that happened to the team are main reasons.

Posted by: gtefferra | February 6, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

After watching that hideous first quarter with the turnovers and sloppy play, I watched the game until midway through the third quarter.

Since the game wasn't shown in High Defenition, I watched it on my old fuzzy tv and promptly fell asleep. I woke up with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and I couldn't believe my eyes. Caron Butler was playing like the Caron Butler of UCONN vs. Maryland days. He even grabbed Dwight Howard in the lane to keep Superman from scoring. But, after Randy Foye made only one of his two free throws and Rashard Lewis came down and hit the 3-pointer, I thought it was over.

I KNEW it was over when I saw Caron squaring up to take the final shot with time expiring. I wouldn't have bet a nickel on him making the shot. And, incredibly, he made the basket. God bless him.

This was a great showcase for CB if any General Managers still have interest in him.

Posted by: musicmanjr | February 6, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Butler isn't a catch and shoot player? I thought he hit an unusually high percentage when he didn't dribble.

Posted by: Samson151 | February 6, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

3/Flip's demand to make him a diffrent player. He told him to be the best defenssive player of the team & asked him for instant shooting .

Posted by: gtefferra | February 6, 2010 2:00 PM

Interesting observation.

I have always wondered why coaches ask players to do things that causes the player to struggle and in turn affects negatively on the Team.

Too often coaches get hung up on those things that he thinks will make the Team better. Like asking NY to be a catch and shoot guy, when that might not be the best thing for Nick.

Sometimes you can ask a player to concentrate on things in his game that he can do, it makes him better and the Team also.

I really think Flip confuses the two approaches, for if you ask a player to do things that he really can't do it naturally might cause that player to struggle.

The better coaches I think emphasize what their players do well and then incorporate those things to a Team philosophy.

And on the other hand they quickly, the good coaches that is, get rid of players whom can't or won't perform consistently the things that they should be doing well.

Coaches that hold arbitrary standards for their players not based upon the individual talents of the player might find that many of their players struggle to perform consistently well.

And all of this is not the coach catering to the players need, but it is acutally realizing the talents of the player and facilitating the means for the player to excell.

The better the structure and the philosophy of meshing the talents to a Team philosophy the greater the chance of success.

"Going with what you have" as I have said many times is a simple approach that many coaches eschew because of their own ego's.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | February 6, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"This was a great showcase for CB if any General Managers still have interest in him.
Posted by: musicmanjr"

I don't think interest is the issue; it's about the price. The other GMs are hoping to get CB and Jamison for little or nothing, while Ernie wants something substantial. That generally means a long, drawn-out process, unless the Wiz decide to just give up. Plus the trade partners are usually contenders, which means they've got draft picks that aren't of much value.

Of course, some contending club could lose a starting SF to injury or Arenas disease, and the equation could change radically.

Posted by: Samson151 | February 6, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

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