Caron will have his work cut out for him in trying to guard Danny Granger tonight. And the best way to combat a guy averaging 23 points per game (tied for 16th in the NBA)? Attack, attack, and attack him on offense.
Granger has been mad lately. He evidently stormed off without talking to the media after the Pacers lost to the Nuggets on Tuesday. The next night, he came back and scored 21 points on 7-18 from the field in win against the Knicks.
But things still aren’t all that great for last year’s Most Improved Player. He’s been struggling with an injury to his right heel (bone bruise), and some say he hasn’t been able to get good lift on his jumper … this is evident by his 40.3% from the field and a True Shooting Percentage (TS%) of .534 in four games this season.
Caron Butler, as we know, isn’t faring much better on offense. He’s shooting 39.6% from the field (.473 TS%). He missed the Wizards’ home opener against the Nets (and most of the previous game in Atlanta) because of a bruised knee-cap, but his struggles aren’t believed to be of a physical derivation.
So what’s the deal with Tuff Juice? Why has he been getting caught “watching the show,” as he says?
It’s hard to put a finger on it. When Butler is trying to be aggressive on offense, he tends to pound the ball into the floor, stagnating ball movement and not creating for his teammates as they watch. Other times, Caron simply hasn’t inserted himself into the offensive rhythm, electing to observe while Gilbert Arenas tries to do his thing.
Butler’s best effort on the season came in the first nine minutes of the Cavs game where he scored 13 points on 4-5 shooting and 4-4 from the free-throw line. His only miss was a tough catch and layup attempt in transition. Otherwise, here’s how those four makes went:
- 7:18: Butler works from left corner off a Haywood left block screen, heading to the opposite block. LeBron goes over Haywood screen ball side. Caron waits for him at the right block, then uses an Oberto FT line pick. When LeBron gets entrenched in the paint, Caron springs free at the top of the key, receives a pass from Arenas and nails the jumper.
- 6:32: Butler again starts in the left corner with a Haywood left block pick in his sights. This time, LeBron goes under the Haywood screen. Instead of cutting to opposite block, Caron cuts to top of three point line, receives the pass from Gil, and nails the three.
- 5:46: Butler receives the ball on the left wing at the 3-point line, Haywood sets a ball screen, Butler takes one dribble left, nails open jumper.
- 5:24: LeBron jumps with no where to go, Miller finds a steal then finds a breaking Butler for a dunk.
Aside from the fast break dunk, notice anything about these shots? Butler is moving off the ball for two makes, and he’s limiting his dribbles, running directly off a ball screen for the third.
He’s not watching Arenas dribble around in hope of the defense collapsing on him so he can be open for a spot up jumper. No, plays are being run specifically for Caron … and they are efficient plays, not isolation looks.
And you know what happened right after that breakaway dunk at the 5:24 mark? Caron again received the ball in the left corner. This time, Cleveland felt the need to double him, which ended up springing Arenas (with the help of a double pick) with an open lane for a drive and a bucket.
Might it behoove the Wizards to get Butler going early and work the offense off of him? Perhaps. But Caron also has to want it early … evidently.
When asked about Butler after the Heat game, Gilbert Arenas, as he curiously pumped the handle of his mini designer bag on wheels up and down, said, “I mean, shoot the open shot. Caron’s a rhythm player. So, in the old system he had enough time to get into his ‘mojo’ and shoot those shots. In this system, you have to get a lot of catch and shoots. So the first initial shot he has he doesn’t usually take it and then everything just closes up from there. He just better get used to catching and shooting.”
You can listen to Gil’s Quote Here:
There’s a lot of buzz about Butler today. Michael Lee has a piece in the Washington Post, ‘We have to get into the flow as a team’, and Mike Prada of Bullets Forever comes with ‘Five possible ways to get Caron Butler’s game going’.
Whatever Butler needs to do, it’s clear that he plays just as much of an integral role to the team as the return of Gilbert Arenas, the health of Antawn Jamison (and the issue of limited scoring out of the front court), the “arrival” (finally) of Andray Blatche, and the integration of newcomers.
I mean, we already know Butler is very important … but just assumed he would be the Wizards’ rock … that he, out of anyone on the team, would pose the least amount of concern regarding challenges to team success. But here we are, talking about the need for Tuff Juice to pack more punch.
It may take some time, but there’s no reason to not have confidence that Butler will get the job done. After all, his path to the NBA from 15 arrests before the age of 15 is much more of a ‘Zero to Hero’ story than that of his teammate.
Look for Saunders to get Butler involved in his offense early by running him off picks and getting him open looks from the mid-range … Caron’s bread-and-butter opportunities.
Caron even said he’ll try to adapt his game to Flip’s style in a blog post he made today.
Gil said earlier this week that I needed to be more of a catch-and-shoot player in this system with Flip Saunders now in town. You know what? I’m going to adapt to any situation. If it’s about coming off screens, catching and shooting now, I’ll do that.
If those possessions I outlined from the Cleveland game are any indication, he’ll do just fine.
>> Nick Young will start tonight … hopefully this will build some confidence for the kid.
>> Once again I will be taking part in ESPN.com’s Daily Dime Friday night chat. Stop by to talk Wizards with me or with the whole ESPN gang about the NBA in general.