The interesting thing about the trade that sent Kwame Brown to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins is that while Brown claimed that he was ready to be a "beast" this season, it is Butler who is playing like one.
Brown is averaging 6.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 27.3 minutes per game for the Lakers, numbers that are below his averages during four seasons with the Wizards (7.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg). Butler, a starter in his first three seasons with the Miami Heat and Lakers, is averaging 17.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 47.9 percent as the Wizards' sixth man.
Butler, who missed two games with a left thigh injury, also has shown a knack for getting to the free throw line, where he's made 25 of 29 attempts.
During Saturday night's 110-95 victory over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, Butler was particularly effective when used in combination with Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.
The question is whether Coach Eddie Jordan will be compelled to insert Butler into the starting lineup. So far, Jordan has gone with a starting unit of Arenas, Jamison, Antonio Daniels, Jared Jeffries and Brendan Haywood, and Butler has accepted his role as the primary scorer off the bench.
"I like the mix we have," Jordan said. "If it goes to a point where it's undeniable that he has to be a starter then fine, but right now I like the balance of what we have with starters and with what's coming off the bench."
The overall depth of the Wizards is the greatest change from last season. Two bench players, Butler and guard Jarvis Hayes, are averaging in double figures in points, and 10 players are averaging double figures in minutes played.
Time to Hit the Road
After taking a day off yesterday, the Wizards will practice today and then prepare for their first extended road trip of the season. The trip begins tomorrow night at Cleveland against former Wizard Larry Hughes, LeBron James and the Cavaliers and continues with games at Minnesota on Thursday night and at New Jersey on Saturday night.
After a home game Nov. 22 against Denver, the Wizards will be back on the road at Orlando, Detroit and Charlotte.
"The good thing about a veteran team is that it knows how to go on the road and take care of business," Daniels said. "It's important because this is when we really have to start to jell and develop that chemistry that is going to carry us through the season."
The Wizards finished 16-25 on the road last season.
Defense Pulling Through
The early emphasis on defense appears to be paying off. Through Saturday's games, Wizards opponents were shooting an NBA-low 39.1 percent. Several players were disappointed that San Antonio shot 41 percent Saturday night, which barely missed Jordan's goal of holding opponents to 40 percent or less each game.
"They kept looking at the clock and the scoreboard saying, 'Hey, they're shooting 45 percent, 44 percent, let's keep getting that thing down,' " Jordan said. "Eventually, it got down to 41. That's pretty darn good against a team that executes as well as San Antonio."