As Draft Approaches, Wizards Rebuff Trade Inquiries Involving Butler

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Washington Wizards hold the fifth pick in Thursday's NBA draft and President Ernie Grunfeld has spoken openly about his willingness to move the selection, opening the door for numerous inquiries and trade discussions in the past few weeks.

About half of the teams in the league have spoken with the Wizards, according to a league source, and most of those discussions have revolved around the draft choice. Some teams, though, have also asked about the availability of the Wizards' top players, with most focusing on Caron Butler.

Multiple sources have confirmed that the Wizards engaged in conversations with the Phoenix Suns about acquiring all-star forward Amare Stoudemire last month, but the talks stalled when the Suns demanded Butler. Another league source added that Golden State and Portland have also attempted to land Butler, but Grunfeld hasn't budged.

Grunfeld's preference is to hold on to his three all-stars in Butler, Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison but he refused to deem any player on his roster as an untouchable when asked on Monday. "You never say never to anything. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was traded. Oscar Robertson was traded," Grunfeld said. "But I've said many times, I like our players. I think we can compete with just about anybody in the league. So, we like what we have. But if the right opportunity presents itself, you always look at it."

The right opportunity has yet to come across Grunfeld's desk, but the last time the Wizards were in the lottery, he used the No. 5 pick (Devin Harris) as part of a package (including Jerry Stackhouse and Christian Laettner) that brought Jamison from Dallas.

Butler, 29, said that while he doesn't expect to move elsewhere, he understands that "anything can happen."

"To be honest with you, I'm not worried but I know the nature of the business," Butler said from Trinity College, where the all-star forward was conducting a free basketball camp for more than 100 kids. "Me being traded from Miami, being traded from [the Lakers], I know the only thing I can control is making sure I'm in good health, making sure I work hard this summer to keep my body right and be the best player I can possibly be for who I'm playing for next season."

Butler said he hasn't taken a break since the season ended, and visited former teammates Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant during the playoffs. His goal is to lose about 10 pounds between now and training camp, to get down to 210.

"It's going to be the best season of my career and I hope that it's in a Wizards uniform," Butler said.

Butler, whose contract expires in 2011, is eligible for a contract extension this summer and can begin talking about a new deal July 1. He said he hasn't sought any assurances from Grunfeld that he won't be dealt. "I don't look for assurance," Butler said. "I put my faith in God and not the process. I know D.C. is my home. If something happens, it happens. If not, I'm going to be ready to rock as a Wizard, but I'm prepared either way."

The Wizards also hold the No. 32 pick in the draft and conducted what will likely be their final pre-draft workout on Monday.

"We have a good feel for what we have and we feel we can find a good player" in the draft, Grunfeld said. "At the same time, we have had some interesting conversations. I think, whether we keep the pick, we're going to get a very solid player. In the meantime, we're going to continue to listen to what other teams have to say."

And if Butler had a choice for the fifth pick? "If Stephen Curry is there, you saw what he did at the workout, you saw what he did this season. I think besides Blake Griffin, he's probably one of the two or three best players in college basketball. It's kind of simple, I think."

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