Caron Butler was making his way through the hallways at Verizon Center late Saturday when a Wizards front office official greeted him in front of the visiting locker room and gave him a hug. It was that kind of night for Butler, the former Wizards cornerstone player who was back in town as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers.
It was Butler’s first game back in the District since being traded along with Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas in 2009-10 when the Wizards began their rebuild. Butler was hurt last season during the Mavericks’ run to the NBA title, but these days, he’s a starter for the Clippers, who have designs on winning it all this season.
“I mean, it felt weird coming here and setting up in this locker room,” Butler said of getting dressed in the visitors’ quarters afer spending four and a half seasons with the Wizards. “But once you’re on the court, basketball just takes care of itself.”
Did it ever for the Clippers, who blitzed hapless Washington in the first quarter and never let up in a 107-81 victory in which Butler scored 14 points. He was one of five Los Angeles players to reach double figures, led by all-star forward Blake Griffin’s 21 on 10-of-14 shooting.
Butler is part of an organization once like the Wizards; that is, struggling to win and in dire need of a reconstruction. Griffin was the first piece in the draft two years ago, and since then the Clippers have added, among others, all-star point guard Chris Paul and veteran guard and former NBA champion Chauncey Billups.
Paul scored a season-low two points on 1-for-9 shooting against the Wizards, but reserve guard Mo Williams had 17 points and a game-high eight assists. Billups finished with 12 points and made all four of his three-point attempts.
“Going into free agency this is all I was thinking about, being with a young nucleus and being with a quality team that needed my services,” Butler said. “I wanted to come out and be featured in a way that I could show everybody I’m healthy; what better place than L.A. It’s working out great.”
Butler ruptured his right patellar tendon on Jan. 1 of last season and watched from the bench as the Mavericks captured the NBA championship over Miami. Since joining the Clippers, he’s averaging nearly 15 points per game.
Butler did wax nostalgic a bit following the Clippers win, discussing what could have been had he, Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison all been healthy at the same time in the playoffs. Those players were the Big Three around which the franchise pinned its championship aspirations that never materialized.
“It was frustrating because I felt like we had a lot of unfinished business,” Butler said. “Losing Gilbert, myself breaking my hand, Antawn’s shoulder, losing [former coach] Eddie Jordan, not being able just to all be whole at one time, it was really frustrating.
“I felt like we could have accomplished a lot more but it is what it is. You look at it in hindsight, and it worked out for me, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn pretty well.”