Caron Butler didn't get to celebrate the Dallas Mavericks championship the way he'd hoped. Dressed in street clothes since rupturing his patellar tendon in January, Butler had to sit and watch the entire playoff run. But now, 10 months after the injury, Butler is finally going to put on a uniform and ball in front of a crowd.
He's participating with a slew of other NBA players in what's being dubbed the "The South Florida All-Star Classic." The charity game scheduled for Oct. 8 is being organized by the Miami Heat's Big Three of Dywane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
"Happy to be healthy," Butler said.
It's hard to say what Dallas would have been had Butler stayed healthy. Would he have been on the floor in Game Four of the Finals instead of DeShawn Stevenson, who hit three 3-pointers and chipped in 11 points in a pivotal three-point win? Would he have been better, or worse, in that situation? Would Corey Brewer have gone somewhere else, maybe even Miami, and found enough of a groove to change the outcome of the Finals?
Impossible to know. But Butler's return will definitely add a scoring punch to the Mavs (as if they needed it). And for a team that won it all despite being the oldest team in the league last year, it's not horrible that a guy only turning 32 in March picks up some of the load. Before he got hurt, he was shooting about eight points higher than he ever has from beyond the arc. His advanced shooting numbers were reaching early Washington levels.
To top it all off, Butler is playing for what might be his last contract. He won't get the $10.5 million he's getting this season in Dallas, but he'll still be trying to prove that his salary shouldn't suffer too much in the coming years. It might be a tough sell considering the potentially tight post-lockout financial climate, but he's going to have to prove he's both healthy and effective if he's going to ask for something substantial.
It all starts October 8th in a charity game. It's not much, but it's a start. For Caron Butler, it's the first step in what he hopes is a road leading to a proper title celebration, and one last big contract.
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