Following another grueling workout with fitness guru Tim Grover on Tuesday, Dallas Mavericks forward Caron Butler dished on topics such as getting paid during the lockout, his availability for a Game 7 in the Finals, watching the team win the title without him, the camaraderie of the 2010-11 Mavs and, of course, his venture into free agency.
* First off, Butler is one of maybe a handful of NBA players who can financially rest easy if the lockout eats up the first couple months of next season (I know, millionaires should not be worried about going broke for a few months without a paycheck, but it happens -- a lot). Thanks to the foresight of agent Raymond Brothers, Butler spread his payments over 12 months instead of getting paid only during the season.
Butler is one of four Brothers clients, as first reported by USA Today, to have payments spread out over as many as 24 months. Brothers structures contracts differently for different clients. For instance, Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph had money deferred. Butler didn't defer payments, but his paycheck schedule runs every two weeks from December to December, so while his contract is effectively up, he will receive paychecks through December.
"It’s just about security," Butler said. "Some guys structure their contracts differently. Fortunately for me, I have a great agent making sure that I had a source of income coming in, so I’m in a good situation."
* Now, ever since the first round against Portland, Butler hinted that he was this close to returning from January surgery to repair a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. As hard as Butler worked, he never did get final clearance to play. However, he said if a Game 7 was necessary in the NBA Finals he could have played.
"Oh yeah. I was doing two-a-days, I was working extremely hard, I was working out 3-on-3, 2-on-2, all that," Butler said. "I finally was going through the preparation with the team. In the offensive shootarounds I was able to play Lebron James on the scout team and start helping the team get prepared, so I was on my way. They brought my jersey, they brought my shoes, all my padding and gear that I wear in the games and they brought it on the trip and said I may have an opportunity to play. So I was really like just looking forward to the opportunity, but I was glad it happened the way it did. We got the title, so that’s all that really matters."
Now, would Butler really have played in a Game 7? That's highly doubtful considering he had not played in a game since Jan. 1. Could coach Rick Carlisle have made Butler active and allowed him to suit up? Absolutely, and Carlisle probably would have done it.
* It must have killed Butler not to be able to play as the Mavs continued to advance in the playoffs. He never showed it, especially during the celebration just after Game 6 when the team gathered on the makeshift stage on the floor of American Airlines Arena in Miami. He said not being able to play didn't make winning the first championship of his nine-year career any less significant.
"It was even more significant because I had to do so much as a player behind the scenes just trying to get back out there on the court," Butler said. "My teammates and everybody in the organization saw how hard I was working to get back out there on the court. The camaraderie that we built, from the Dallas Mavericks organization keeping me on board and Mark Cuban telling me that I wasn’t going anywhere (prior to the trade deadline) and that he wanted me to be a part of this franchise and I was part of the fabric of what this organization was built upon, it made me feel really special."
* Butler was one of several Mavs players to accept a lesser role than he was used to throughout his career. Yes, Butler was the starting small forward, but he averaged just 29.9 minutes, well below his career average of 36.3, and on many nights he didn't touch the floor in the fourth quarters.
"You hear a lot of teams and guys say this, but on that team all anyone ever cared about was winning and I think it was sincere. I think it was real and I think it was authentic," Butler said. "Just all they cared about was winning. Whatever coach told us we should do or had to do to make that happen, to accomplish our goal, that’s what we did, and you saw that in the play. You saw guys, we were nine or 10 deep that could have been a starter on any team in the NBA -- but guys just making the sacrifice. You know, me not playing in the fourth, other guys playing less minutes, Shawn Marion coming off the bench, other guys taking a lesser role and deferring more. It was a special thing to be a part of and it was a collective effort all the way around. It was truly special."
* It sounds like an ideal situation that Butler wouldn't mind repeating, but doing so this time fully healthy. Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson has said he hopes to bring back the whole gang, but the NBA is a business (and no one needs a lockout to remind them of that). Butler is expected to seek a multi-year deal. Re-signing with the Mavs, for both sides, will come down to money and length of the contract, which will greatly be predicated on a new collective bargaining agreement.
"It’s a great organization, it’s a great city, it has some of the best fans," Butler said of Dallas. "The energy in that place was just unbelievable, but we’ll see. That’s Raymond’s job, to make sure that I’m in the best situation possible, able to provide for my loved ones and obviously myself. I just let him take care of all that. But, I will be playing basketball. I’m feeling great and I’ll be playing basketball at a high level for years to come."