Caron Butler reflects on the breakup of the Washington Wizards and their all-star trio

(John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Maybe it doesn't matter anymore. Maybe because he's leaving town -- headed to Dallas, to a team with genuine title aspirations -- Caron Butler is yesterday's news. Maybe he's just another linchpin of a seven-player NBA deal, freeing up salary-cap space and luxury-tax relief for the woeful Wizards as they begin the demolition of an era.

But before he leaves Washington's tattered pro basketball franchise behind, Butler wants it to be known he believed almost till the end.

He said he used to envision his number hanging in the rafters of Verizon Center. No. 3, he dreamed, would hang next to No. 0 and No. 4. If they won it all, Butler, Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison would be right next to the jerseys of Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson.

Butler and Jamison would actually have that conversation, often after a heart-to-heart with Abe Pollin, the Wizards' owner, who was very fond of all three players up until he passed away last November.

"We all wanted to go in the rafters together, as crazy as that sounds now," Butler said Sunday night. "Antawn and I would actually talk about it. That was the plan: play hard, compete night in and night out and give us a chance to win a title. For a while that's what it looked like."

Now it's over. Whatever the Wizards' trio of all-stars were -- once a bona fide Eastern Conference playoff team -- that collection of talent didn't end up sticking around for the long haul after all.

The Gil-Caron-and-'Tawn Show probably closed for good the moment Arenas brought guns into the Wizards locker room Dec. 21, an incident that resulted in criminal convictions and the season-long suspensions of Arenas and reserve guard Javaris Crittenton.

But when Ernie Grunfeld moved Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood on Saturday to the Mavericks for four players, including Josh Howard and Drew Gooden, it was the official end to a plan that ultimately didn't pan out for anyone.

Just like that, the Big Three is now the Sympathetic One.

If Grunfeld cannot move Jamison by Thursday's trade deadline, how can you not feel for him? At 33 years old, he has to come back from the all-star break and look across the locker room and realize he's got so little left to play with.

"I don't think 'Twan is going anywhere," surmised Butler, who hoped things would work out for his former teammate whether he was traded or not.

Butler became the last piece of the puzzle acquired in 2005. He remembered watching Arenas hit the shot against Chicago, thinking: "Man, that team is on the rise. It'd be fun to play there."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company