The first three lines of Young Jeezy’s verse on “Real as It Gets,” track six on Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3:
Allow me to re-introduce myself,
at the same time re-introduce my wealth,
at the same time rejuvinate the game
This is what blasted out of Caron Butler’s headphones prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Mavericks. He danced and sang his way from the training room to his locker, a large drink from McDonald’s and five unwrapped straws in tow. I can’t testify to the contents of Butler’s cup, but would be curious if he’s sticking to the no-soda diet he started this summer.
In any case, Butler was going through his normal pre-game hype routine, hoping to leave his footprint on the night. Instead, Butler stepped in it. He tried enact Jeezy’s first line, played like he’s entitled to more of the second line, and enervated the last line.
Why keep reliving Caron Butler’s Agent Rogue act? Because in a season where just about everything imaginable has happened, when a player starts tuning out a coach, for no good reason, it deserves some extra attention.
First, let’s take a look at the final act of mutiny from the fans’ perspective, courtesy of the distinguished @macg_og:
Ready for a sports cliché? Wait for it …. wait for it …. here goes …. “Games are not won or lost on a single play.”
Not exactly comforting to Wizards fans. Definitely not comforting to certain players in the Wizards’ locker room. Especially not comforting to head coach Flip Saunders.
After overcoming just 15 assists to 14 turnovers for the game and a seven point deficit with a minute left, the Wizards fell short by just one point to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night. Down 94-93 with 6.7 seconds left, just after Brendan Haywood drew a huge charge call on Dirk Nowitzki, Caron Butler had the ball in his hands to win the game, either with a shot or a pass to a teammate.
After receiving the inbounds pass, Butler halted any previously set up process and dwindled clock with unproductive bounces of the ball, something you can’t exactly afford when you’re down. He drove left against Shawn Marion into the strong side help of Jason Kidd. With good defense quickly closing up the lane, Butler threw up the only shot he could muster, a weak, fading attempt that was sent back in his direction by Marion. Game over. Fans were left baffled.
No, games aren’t won or lost on one play, but when it came down to one play, why did Washington screw the pooch in between taking it out for a nice seafood dinner and never calling it again? There must have been a better way for the Wizards to court their first three-game win streak of the year. Perhaps being on the same page as to how the final play was to be executed would have helped.
Has a franchise ever been at a crossroads like the Washington Wizards? As some analysts predicted Washington to compete for a fourth seed this season, no NBA team has fallen further from expectations. That should be enough. Now, the once face of the team has been cast aside, partially due to his irresponsibility in bringing guns into the locker room and partially due to his resulting immature treatment of a serious situation.
Antawn Jamison is the consummate veteran, a Gentleman, as goes his nickname. Caron Butler is the during-game straw chewing guy, former mass consumer of Mountain Dew who arose from 15 arrests before 15 years on this earth to make the NBA, one whom his former coach Eddie Jordan nicknamed, “Tough Juice.” Gilbert Arenas was once the guy who went to Barry Farms, D.C.’s equivalent of Rucker Park, by himself sans entourage just because he liked being around regular people. All three of these massive basketball figures in the Nation’s Capital — each playing a role in the four-year playoff run that resuscitated basketball in the DMV, are on the verge of being set afloat down the Potomac.
Now, one is making vain attempts for a team wrought with futility. Another only provides waning memories of a past All-Star self. A third has created an unfathomable situation, with pranks, guns, shoe turds, and exposing the issue of guns and NBA players via the quiet, polite kid from Atlanta whom no one would expect to lock and load his own gun while singing. All could be gone by February. Question is, will management gut the house, bulldoze the structure and give everything away? Or will Ernie Grunfeld get some ‘Bubs from The Wire’-like ingenuity and receive assets in return for his valuable scrap metal. Either way, if cap room is the direction, the Wizards better hope they get lucky in the draft and overpay the right veteran free-agent, else the future is a long time away.
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.
Caron Butler is not all bad and he’s no scapegoat, but he’s also having the worst season of his career (aside from his second year in the league).
Sure, a new system is tough. But Butler sells himself as a pro’s pro, a vet’s vet. And not to say he doesn’t possess those qualities, but he still has a big step to take to be a ‘next-level’ player and not some flash-in-the-pan two time All-Star.
Flip Saunders has implored Gilbert Arenas to push the ball and attack the basket. With that, offense should be created. Caron shifting his role back to number two, where he’s rightly supposed to sit in the team’s pecking order, shouldn’t involve him fading into the background, nor should it involve him forcing it.
This season, Caron’s game has been everywhere on the spectrum except balanced. He needs to adjust his offensive approach to create for the team, and not just for himself. The him-first approach is why he is averaging a career low 1.7 assists/36 minutes and why he has a 41.4 FG% that’s only better than his sophomore slump season in Miami, Dwyane Wade’s rookie year.
Sure Arenas cools down many buildings in which he plays with 40.2% from the field, and sure the Wizards have 99 problems … but Caron Butler is one.
Today’s concluding media session at Wizards practice, which was held on the main Verizon Center court because it happened to be set up, didn’t have as somber of a mood in the air as I expected.
Then again, the shellacking in San Antonio came way back on Saturday … plenty of time for the players to look forward and put the bad loss behind them, as professional athletes are so apt at doing.
I only got to talk with two players today (not that many talked in the first place; to my knowledge, I only missed comments from Andray Blatche), and had to leave before Flip Saunders finally made himself available. The two players: Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas.
And get this, Arenas actually wanted to talk to the media. The days of him walking by after practice and saying, “They told me I didn’t have to talk to you guys today, only on game nights,” could be a distant memory. Then again, Agent Funeral could also be back at any time.
There was a minor Twitter flurry just before the Wizards game in Miami on Tuesday night. In a flash, reports of Gilbert Arenas’ demise (at least for that evening) spread throughout the web; hyped by yours truly. A sore left calf was the case that they gave him. Bury it with the ghosts of injury past and present, I thought … currently Mike James’ finger, Javaris Crittenton’s foot, the left shoulder of Mike Miller, and the right shoulder of Antawn Jamison … and as we would later find out, Randy Foye’s ankle.
Thoughts of distraught that I won’t repeat conjured in my mind as I rode the late bus home … to make a drink (or two) and watch a DVR delay of the Wizards-Heat game in hopes of catching up by the end. But knowing that without Arenas and the aforementioned others, the Wizards wouldn’t stand a chance.
One thing I didn’t to mention in my post-game write-up … and I’m not sure if it had a proper place there anyway … was the “mood” of Gilbert Arenas after the Suns game.
I’ve only been around the new, media unfriendly Arenas at media day, practices, and home games. And he’s only talked once after a practice (to my knowledge), the first one after he got fined. I also haven’t been to every practice, but his routine usually has been to say, “They said I don’t have to talk to you guys today … only on game nights.”
Most are still getting acclimated to the melancholy, aloof Gilbert Arenas … the one who has become so jaded by the media that he started putting on a rendition of himself that’s a far cry from the entertaining Arenas of old. A seemingly 180-degree turn, but still 100% quirky.
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?
Flip Saunders on preparing for the last game of the preseason, the ‘Swine Flu’ back-court he will start against the Bulls on Friday, and getting Andray Blatche into his role of coming off the bench.
Brendan Haywood on getting Gilbert Arenas and Mike Miller back from the flu and the Wizards’ ‘Window of Opportunity’.
Caron Butler on his defensive progression
“So far so good. You know, still gambling a little bit after looking at some film. But, it’s still preseason … just trying to focus in on the rotation for the most part, getting to spots, talking and communicating as much as possible. And … so far so good.”