A league source confirmed a published report that the Wizards were close to completing a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers at the trade deadline that would have resulted in a reunion with Caron Butler.
NBA.com’s David Aldridge reported that the Wizards and Clippers had agreed to a swap of Butler for Trevor Ariza late Wednesday night but Clippers owner Donald Sterling rejected the deal because he didn’t want to disrupt the chemistry of a 40-18 team that currently has the third-best record in the Western Conference, or risk upsetting Chris Paul, who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Butler spent four and a half seasons in Washington, making two all-star appearances and earning the nickname “Tuff Juice” as a member of a high-scoring trio with Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison. The Wizards dealt Butler to Dallas at the trade deadline in February 2010 to begin the rebuilding process after President Ernie Grunfeld finally decided to break up the team after the Arenas gun incident.
Grunfeld acquired Butler in the summer of 2005 after trading disappointing former No. 1 overall pick Kwame Brown to the Los Angeles Lakers and it remains one the best trades of his tenure in Washington. Butler still maintains an offseason home in Virginia, has always declared his love for the region and would’ve been open to playing for the Wizards again, according to a source.
Butler won a championship in Dallas in 2011 but was unable to play because of a knee injury. He has been relatively healthy in Los Angeles and is averaging 10.3 points and 2.9 rebounds as a starter for the Clippers, but Ariza actually has a higher player efficiency rating at 13.6 (compared to 12.4) and is five years younger.
Ariza, 27, has an early termination option on his contract and could become a free agent this summer if he decides to pass on the $7.7 million remaining on his deal next season. Butler is slated to earn $8 million next season.
Ariza has been the Wizards’ top perimeter defender in his first season in Washington. He is averaging 8.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and a team-high 1.5 steals but has been unable to supplant Martell Webster as the starting small forward since returning from a strained left calf muscle. Webster will be an unrestricted free agent next season.