Caron Butler: 'It's a tremendous blow'

DALLAS -- For the first time since he fell to the floor clutching his right knee on New Year's Day in Milwaukee, Caron Butler will join his teammates on the Dallas Mavericks' bench tonight.

Maybe he'll provide inspiration. The lethargic Mavs could use some as they drag a six-game losing streak into tonight's nationally televised game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Butler watched the team practice on Tuesday for the first time, but he said he's been in frequent communication with his teammates.

"I've been texting guys, telling them to remain positive, to continue to trust some of the things we always honed in on, playing good defense and just letting them know what I see," Butler said. "Some of it's from a personal standpoint, some just from the obvious, what we need. We exchange texts and conversations and we move on and hopefully we get out of this funk."

Butler also recounted suffering the injury, how he immediately knew something was wrong, and how his mind quickly focused off himself and on his family and friends who came to watch him play from his nearby hometown of Racine, Wisc.

"It was a tough thing just because I knew exactly what happened when it happened," Butler said. "The second I had planted, I knew something was wrong, it just felt uncomfortable. I just jumped on my feet because I knew my mother, my grandmother, my wife and I had so many loved ones in the stands that I wanted walk off the court by myself."

Afterward, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle called it one of the more courageous acts he's seen considering the severity of the injury -- a ruptured patellar tendon that required surgery a few days later and will sideline him for at least the remainder of the regular season.

Butler's injury came two games after Dirk Nowitzki went down with a sprained right knee and missed nine games. The losses had a crippling effect on the Mavs, both on the court and mentally, as they've lost nine of 11 games and slipped six games in the standings while losing their last five games by double figures.

"It’s a tremendous blow," Butler said. "You lose two of your better players with any team, you know if the Lakers lose Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol or something like that, that would be a blow to the team. But, guys are stepping up, Dirk’s back into a nice rhythm, other guys are going to step up, roles are going to change. Roddy Beaubois will be back soon, things will change and hopefully get this back rolling."

Butler can now only rest and watch. He is in a precarious situation in that he is in the final year of his contract and the Mavs could trade him before the late February deadline in attempt to acquire reinforcements for the stretch run. Butler was always a potential trade piece, but his recent emergence as a high-powered scorer and tough-minded overall player was a key ingredient in Dallas' 24-5 start that has all but evaporated.

"I'm just staying positive. You want to come in and put that aside because I know that will take care of itself," Butler said. "You only can control what you can control. The only thing I can control right now is just ice [his knee]. all I can do is ice and support my teammates. I’m a Maverick, so just come in here and support them and when opportunity comes for all that, when I start rehabbing, I’ll prepare for free agency. But, right now I’m a Maverick and I’m going to continue to be a good teammate."