Wizards’ Caron Butler Out to Buck Trend on Return to Milwaukee Area

Caron Butler, left, posting up against Royal Ivey, is a native of the Milwaukee area; his games there involve highs (40 points last January) and lows (a broken hand in 2007, and a hip injury last year).
Caron Butler, left, posting up against Royal Ivey, is a native of the Milwaukee area; his games there involve highs (40 points last January) and lows (a broken hand in 2007, and a hip injury last year). (By Gary Dineen -- Nbae/getty Images)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Going to Milwaukee to play the Bucks has turned into a bittersweet experience for Caron Butler.

On the bright side, the two-time all-star loves returning to a city that is a short drive north of his home town of Racine, Wis., and it was at Milwaukee's Bradley Center where Butler scored a career-high 40 points in an overtime loss last Jan. 27.

However, Butler has also suffered two serious injuries in Milwaukee, a fractured right hand that forced him to miss the 2007 playoffs and a left hip injury in January that ultimately cost him 19 games.

"It's crazy because the last couple of years, every time I go home, something happens," said Butler, who might need 35 or more tickets for friends and family tonight. "You try to give the best effort possible every time you step on the court. It's a little added incentive because you know you're playing in front of so many loved ones and friends and people who can't afford [NBA League Pass] because of the recession.

So, I'm going to see what happens."

The Wizards (0-2) will need Butler at his best tonight as they look for their first win of the season. The Bucks (2-2) feature a new coach in Scott Skiles; a new star player in small forward Richard Jefferson, who was landed in a trade that sent Yi Jianlian to New Jersey over the summer; and one of the game's best shooters in Michael Redd.

Milwaukee is coming off a solid 94-86 win at New York and appears to be slowly but steadily adjusting to Skiles, who racked up a record of 281-251 during previous coaching stints with the Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls.

Skiles' reputation as an old-school, no-nonsense coach who has little patience for sloppy play and defensive indifference is well established, and his first order of business upon arrival in Milwaukee was getting his players to buy into his concepts.

The Bucks certainly needed a change after four straight losing seasons that included last year's disastrous 26-56 finish.

"Scott Skiles doesn't play around," Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson said. "So, I know they are going to play defense. They are going to play hard. If they don't play hard, he's not going to play them. He's proven that in the NBA. So, we have to go out there and get ready for a tough defense and coach."

Because of a scheduling quirk, the Wizards and Atlanta Hawks will enter tonight's action having played the fewest games in the league. That has left plenty of time for practice but not a lot of opportunity for establishing chemistry and rhythm in games.

The pace will pick up this week with tonight's game and a back-to-back set this weekend with games at home against the Knicks on Friday night and at Orlando on Saturday night.

"Last year we started off 0-5, so no one's panicking," Butler said. "We just need to stick with what makes us successful, and that's executing our offense. We're getting better every day. Everyone's positive and upbeat."

Jordan would like to see his team combine the positive elements of the first two games. He was generally pleased with his team's defensive effort during the season-opening 95-85 loss to the Nets but wanted better offensive execution. During Saturday's 117-109 loss in Detroit, offense wasn't a problem, as the Wizards shot 51.9 percent, but rebounding most certainly was as the Pistons held a 49-24 edge on the boards and a 28-9 advantage in second-chance points.

"Our first game, we were in it but we didn't play very well and our second game, we played against a very, very good team and I saw improvement," Jordan said. "Now it's about putting it all together and let's go get a win."

Wizards Notes: Center Etan Thomas sat out practice for the second straight day with a sprained left ankle and will be reevaluated today at the morning shoot-around. Jordan did not say who would start if Thomas is unable to play, but a logical choice would be rookie JaVale McGee.

"We'll have alternative plans and see where Etan is [today]," Jordan said. "It's something that first of all, I don't want to tell Milwaukee, and second of all, I don't really know."

© 2008 The Washington Post Company