Agent: Mavericks covet long-term deal

Updated: July 27, 2011, 5:19 PM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

The Dallas Mavericks' intentions are to sign unrestricted free agent Caron Butler to a long-term contract, agent Raymond Brothers said Wednesday.

During the playoffs and again after the Mavericks won the NBA championship, Brothers said Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told him the club wants to re-sign the nine-year veteran.

"After the championship was over," Brothers said, "Donnie texted me and told me he wanted Caron to be part of the team long term."

Nelson is prohibited from commenting on the matter. NBA clubs are prohibited from talking to or about players during the lockout, and all negotiations between teams and players and their representatives ceased on June 30.

"His preference is to stay with Dallas and help them compete for a championship," Brothers said. "We are optimistic and hopeful that we'll come to an agreement that works for both sides."

Butler has returned to Chicago to work out with fitness guru Tim Grover, putting his body -- and specifically his surgically repaired right knee -- through the same rigorous offseason conditioning regiment that had the two-time All-Star in the best shape of his career entering last season.

Butler boasted in a phone interview that his knee is fully recovered from the ruptured patellar tendon that ended his season on Jan. 1. He said he's feeling great and will be 100 percent whenever the lockout ends and training camp begins.

"I'll be ready," Butler said. "I'm doing everything I usually do during the offseason preparing for a season."

Caron Butler
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesCaron Butler said that his knee is fully recovered from the ruptured patellar tendon that ended his season on Jan. 1. "I'll be ready," Butler said. "I'm doing everything I usually do during the offseason preparing for a season."

The only question is where the 6-foot-7, 228-pound small forward will play next season. Will he still be with the Mavericks? Will another team try to reel him in with a better deal once a new collective bargaining agreement comes to pass?

Indications are that Butler, 31, wants the security of a multiyear deal and has no desire to re-enter the market again next summer and seek a bigger payday, assuming he were to have a bounce-back season.

Brothers said pre-lockout discussions, when the Mavs owned exclusive negotiating rights, did not reach the point of years or dollars.

"The issue with Caron is whether or not he's healthy. And the answer to that question is he is," Brothers said. "The doctors in Dallas think he's going to be even better. His legs are stronger and better than they were before the injury."

The Mavs have witnessed Butler's recovery process first-hand and were close to clearing him to play during the NBA Finals. Salary cap terms in a new CBA will define how much and how long the Mavs are comfortable with offering.

Dallas has more than $60 million tied up in returning players and has six free agents -- headlined by center Tyson Chandler, who will command top dollar on the open market.

Butler and the Mavs do share a mutual affection. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle consistently praised Butler for his intense dedication to rehabbing his knee. Owner Mark Cuban told Butler prior to the February trade deadline that he wanted him to be a part of the franchise and that he is "part of the fabric of what this organization was built upon," Butler said.

After the Mavs won the title, Nelson said of Butler: "He's part of the fabric of what we're doing, so he's part of the family. That's how we'll treat all those guys [the team's free agents]. That being said, there's other teams out there, too. Their agents are going to field offers; that's what agents are paid to do. It's a process we go through every summer and we end up figuring something out."

Before the injury, Butler had emerged as the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 15.0 points and 4.1 rebounds despite playing only 29.9 minutes a game, tying a career low. He had a particularly strong two weeks prior to the injury, averaging 19.9 points and shooting 45.5 percent from 3-point range.

Dallas opened the season 24-5 before Dirk Nowitzki went down with a sprained right knee on Dec. 27, followed by Butler's gruesome injury on New Year's Day in front of family and friends in Milwaukee.

"I thought I was a great fit," Butler said. "I thought we all complemented each other. ... It was a special team. It was a special experience -- I'm still in awe that we won the whole thing -- and I'm just happy to be a part of it, on any note. But we'll see what happens."

Acquired by Dallas in a 2010 deadline trade with the Washington Wizards, Butler was in the final year of a contract that paid him $10.56 million. Dallas could have used Butler's enticing expiring contract in a deadline deal, but chose to hold onto him. At the time, Butler said he was confident he would ultimately re-sign with Dallas.

If he does, Butler would likely reclaim his spot as the starting small forward, allowing Shawn Marion to return to the bench, which also would include Corey Brewer.

Butler said his focus is simply to continue to prepare for next season -- wherever he may be playing.

"It's up to my agent to put me in the best situation," Butler said. "Like I said, I'm healthy. I'm going to be my old self, even better. I'm back in the lab working on everything. I look forward to playing years of healthy basketball and I will go out there and prove it."

Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.

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