The Washington Wizards wrapped up a key piece of their future last night, signing forward Caron Butler to a five-year contract extension. The team did not disclose terms of the extension, but a source said the deal was worth $46 million.
The 6-foot-7, 228-pound Butler was the key player in the trade that sent forward Kwame Brown to the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. Butler arrived along with guard Chucky Atkins and was entering the final season of his original rookie contract.
Butler, who was drafted with the 10th overall pick by the Miami Heat in 2002, was scheduled to make $2.46 million this season.
"I'm just happy because this is such a great situation for me and my family," said Butler, who has averaged 13.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 223 regular season NBA games. "I know a good fit when I see one, and from the time I arrived here in Washington, the organization has made me and my family feel so welcome. I'm excited about knowing that my future will be with this team."
Butler was Washington's second-leading scorer during the preseason, averaging 13.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and a team-high 2.4 steals in seven games.
Butler has primarily played small forward with the Wizards after splitting time between that position and shooting guard with the Lakers last season. Though he made three starts during the preseason, Butler will begin the regular season coming off the bench.
Butler said he would prefer to start, as he did 211 times during three seasons with the Heat and Lakers, but added that he will carry out any role assigned to him. Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan likes the idea of having Butler's offensive punch coming in a reserve role.
Butler has already coined a nickname for the group that will come off the bench tomorrow in the Wizards' season opener at Toronto. With Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas, Antonio Daniels, Jared Jeffries and Brendan Haywood slated for the starting lineup, key reserves will include Butler, guard Jarvis Hayes, Atkins, forward Michael Ruffin and centers Etan Thomas and Calvin Booth.
That group has combined to start 637 regular season games and should provide the Wizards with one of the better second units in the league.
"We're the bench mob," Butler said. "We're going to come in the game and pick up where the starters leave off."
The Wizards did not reach an agreement on a contract extension with forward Jeffries prior to last night's deadline. Jeffries, the team's first-round pick in the 2002 draft, is entering the final season of his rookie contract and is scheduled to make just more than $2 million this season.
If the Wizards make their qualifying offer of $2.7 million to Jeffries following the season, he will become a restricted free agent, meaning the Wizards would have the right to match any offer made to him.
Wizards Notes: Hayes practiced at full speed yesterday and will be in the rotation for tomorrow night's regular season opener. Hayes missed the final six preseason games and was limited to shooting drills after experiencing soreness in his right knee. Hayes missed the second half of last season and the team's playoff run with a fractured right patella.
"Not concerned at all," Hayes said about the status of the knee. "I'll be fine." . . .
Rookie forward Andray Blatche, who missed the entire preseason with injuries to his right arm and left chest area suffered in a Sept. 25 shooting, practiced for the first time yesterday and has been cleared to travel with the team this week. Blatche will open the season on the inactive list and could be assigned to Washington's NBA Development League affiliate in Roanoke later this month. . . .
Perhaps no Wizard is looking forward to the start of the regular season more than Jamison. In seven preseason games, Jamison never found a groove, averaging 7.6 points and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 28 percent. Jamison also hit only 2 of 16 three-point attempts.
"Taking the day off [Sunday] I kind of know what my problems have been," Jamison said. "It's just a matter of timing. Not going too fast, slowing down and getting a little more arc on the ball. When it counts, it counts and that's when I've found a way to get it done. I'm not worried about it at all."