After today’s practice, Flip Saunders again praised Caron Butler for his work on the court. The Wizards coach did the same after last Thursday’s practice and also after Saturday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
I wrote a brief piece about Caron’s recent efforts for ESPN’s Daily Dime this morning, it’s number eight in the right-hand column. Here’s the beginning:
Prior to practice on New Year’s Eve, and before the Gilbert Arenas media-market saturation, Flip Saunders pulled Caron Butler aside for a conversation.
“We had a talk about how he’s played and how I thought he could play,” Saunders said. “Maybe I’ve given him too much credit, been soft on him. But I said that’s not going to happen anymore.”
Saunders wouldn’t go into details about his issues with Butler, but on the court, Caron has often looked for his own opportunities instead of trusting the offense and has lacked a full commitment to defense. Butler responded with what Saunders called his best practice since the coach was hired last April.
With Butler’s name surfacing in trade rumors, the Wizards’ brass could be dropping small hints to showcase Caron. Or, Saunders could just be doing his job.
Ultimately, Butler’s trade value, if that’s the direction Ernie Grunfeld decides to go, hinges not only on his good performance in past seasons and very sub-par act up to this point in the current season, but more importantly on how he plays going forward.
Either Caron reignites his value for this franchise, or he must prove his worth somewhere else. Grunfeld would probably rather not trade Butler, but because of his age (30 in March) and reasonable contract (set to make $10.6 million in 2010-11, the final year of his contract), he’s likely the most valuable asset the Wizards have, aside from, perhaps, JaVale McGee.
For whomever or whatever the benefit may be, Butler taking a look at himself in the mirror and refocusing his game can only be a good thing. With all options on deck for Grunfeld, Wizards fans might soon find themselves putting down the Tuff Juice and drinking another type of Kool-Aid.
Flip Saunders talking after practice on December 31, 2009 about his team and conversation with Butler, and Butler’s response:
Caron Butler post-game after San Antonio on January 2, 2010 and after practice on January 4: