When you reach your 14th NBA season, you probably have seen just about everything on the court.
Caron Butler is capitalizing on that experience.
Early in the Kings’ season, the 35-year-old forward has shown he can make an impact even in limited minutes off the bench.
When Butler enters a game, he goes to work quickly. In two appearances totaling 27 minutes, he has 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting. On a second unit with many players looking to score, Butler already has mastered getting the shots he wants.
He’s a pro; he knows how to play.
Kings coach George Karl on forward Caron Butler
“I think it’s key that coach (George) Karl has a system,” Butler said. “The system is great, but at the same time, when you come in, you’ve got to know how to be effective and be an asset to the team. Get to your (shooting) spots where you can be extremely effective because sometimes you’re not going to have an opportunity to get loose all over again.”
Butler was unaffected by his play in the preseason, when he made only 3 of 16 shots. Like many veterans, he was working out the kinks and making sure he was ready for the regular season.
“I don’t think I’ve been surprised,” Karl said of Butler’s regular-season performance. “I was surprised he played poorly in the exhibition season and now has been able to turn that switch on quicker than I thought he would.”
Butler said his sharpness comes from training and shootaround rituals he’s followed for years and competition with younger players in practice.
He also finds ways to stay in the game mentally. Butler has been an All-Star, so he knows how to play at a high level. And he’s been around long enough to see what happens when focus drifts to the stands or postgame plans.
“Sometimes when you’re over there (on the bench), you get caught bird-watching,” Butler said, “and when you get in the game, you’re out there searching, and then four or five minutes go by and you’re out of the game, and your impact has been very minimal.”
Knowing his playing time might be brief, Butler believes it’s important to talk to his teammates as they leave the game to find out what to expect. He might ask how a player is defending a certain play or what his teammates are seeing when they run the offense.
“So when you get out there, it’s almost like you’ve been out there and mentally you’re in it,” Butler said. “It’s not like a shooting drill or something like that. Everything has reactions and counters, so you’ve got to be mentally prepared for that, and if you’re not, you’ll find yourself out of the flow, out of the mix, and you’ll find it tough to get engaged.”
The system is great, but at the same time, when you come in, you’ve got to know how to be effective and be an asset to the team.
Butler’s longevity in the league appealed to the Kings, who signed him in the offseason to be a solid presence in the locker room and a mentor to the young players.
In molding his approach to the game, Butler credited teammates such as Eddie Jones and Alonzo Mourning with the Miami Heat and Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“He’s a pro; he knows how to play,” Karl said. “I think he understands what we want to do probably as much as anybody on the team except maybe our point guards. He’s comfortable taking and making shots.”