No Respect For Tuff Juice: Caron Butler's Solid Career as an Afterthought
The Washington Wizards have some of the worst luck when it comes to players and their respective talents. let me rephrase, the Washington Wizards USED to have some of the worst luck when it comes to players and their respective talents.
In their days as the Washington Bullets, the team had their hands on the likes of Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace. Richard "Rip" Hamilton was drafted by the team a season after the name change to the Wizards. It goes without saying that those three ultimately converged in Detroit and won an NBA Championship, while making several other post-season appearances thereafter.
In contrast, the Wizards drafted Kwame Brown number one overall in the 2001 NBA Draft. In Washington, Brown amassed a stellar 7.45 points per game average and 5.3 rebounds per game. Needless to say, Kwame was a huge bust.
In his final season with the Wizards, Brown was suspended for the playoffs following several missed practices, games and overall misconduct.
The best thing Kwame Brown did in his career with the Wizards was getting traded.
Following the 2004-05 season, Brown was dealt along with Laron Profit to the Los Angeles Lakers for Chucky Atkins and Caron Butler.
Upon being traded, Butler must have been thinking he was never going to make it in the NBA. The season prior to his trade to Washington, he was traded from the Miami Heat to the Lakers with Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and two future draft choices for Shaquille O'Neal.
The Shaq trade made perfect sense for both sides, but the deal involving Brown and others had to bother Butler. He was being shipped cross country for a bust and for what? To be traded somewhere else for the next best thing?
Caron Butler couldn't have landed in a better situation if he had tried.
The Wizards were coming off of their first playoff appearance in seven years, in which they lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals to Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. Butler was coming from a Lakers team that had missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
The Wizards were at an impass with their young but struggling forward Jarvis Hayes and found the perfect replacement in Butler. Hayes sat out all but 21 games of the 2005-06 season due to injury. In his place, Caron Butler improved upon already improving numbers.
In his first season with the Wizards, Butler increased nearly every single statistical average from his previous three seasons with the Heat and Lakers. He scored more, he rebounded more, he had more steals and his field goal percentage improved.
The Wizards found their way into the playoffs again behind 42-40 regular season, but were ousted in the first round by none other than LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron James is the the man responsible for three of the last four postseason series losses the Wizards have suffered. All of which were first round losses. LeBron James, arguably one of the best players in the NBA.
LeBron James, the biggest name in the NBA next to Kobe Bryant, plays the same position as Caron Butler, in the same conference as the Wizards. It doesn't help that in each playoff appearance since he has been a Wizard, Butler has had to face James in the first round
Caron Butler isn't any sort of Phenom the way LeBron James is. He doesn't get the endorsement deals of coverage on ESPN that James does. What he does do is bring an intensity to the court that few others can contend with.
The name is Tuff Juice, and he didn't earn it by playing soft. Caron Butler is the best player the Wizards have on their roster right now.
You could say Gilbert Arenas beats him out, but Arenas hasn't been on the court in three years.
You could say Antawn Jamison is better than Butler, but is widely considered to be undersized for the position.
Caron Butler's absence in games means a drop in defensive pressure and drop in hustle on the floor. No one on the Wizards goes after loose balls the way Butler does. No one fights for rebounds in the paint the way Butler does.
But as the story goes, Butler doesn't get the respect he deserves. When he was drafted tenth overall by the Heat in the 2002 NBA Draft he vowed to make those first nine teams that passed him by pay for not picking him.
The Wizards had the eleventh pick in the draft.
The future appears to be bright for the Wizards and their star forward. The team is healthy and will be returning some much needed talent in Arenas and center Brendan Haywood. One can only guess as to what the team will do.
If there is one thing that is certain, it is that Caron Butler will be bringing his A game night in and night out no matter who gets more press than he does.
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