A souvenir performance
Butler delivers on bobblehead night
Caron Butler had been honored with bobblehead nights before.
Five times, to be exact.
His likenesses had previously sported the uniforms of the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers.
But this time was different.
“It was special,” Butler said.
In the hours after many of Butler’s family members and friends filed into the BMO Harris Bradley Center and received a bobblehead doll bearing his name, Butler came off the bench to score 30 points and help his Milwaukee Bucks slam the brakes on a nine-game losing streak with a 104-101 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 23.
Butler was listed as questionable for the game after undergoing a root canal two days earlier. But when illness rendered Larry Sanders and O.J. Mayo unable to play, Butler answered Head Coach Larry Drew’s call with one of the premier performances of his first season with his homestate team.
The 32-year-old Racine native, acquired by Milwaukee in a three-way trade with the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns on Aug. 29, 2013, delivered 14 points in the second quarter, then hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the third period. The Bucks rallied from 13 points down to their eighth victory in the midway game of their 2013-14 season.
“We really needed that win,” Butler said. “I was excited about tonight. It was another opportunity to get a win and start something good. I loved our energy in the first half of the game.
“We came in here and reemphasized that we couldn’t come out flat in the third quarter, which has been our Achilles’ heel during the first half of the season. I thought we did, but we bounced back from it and got the crowd into the game. They were supporting us and rode that momentum.”
Butler wasn’t feeling even close to par a day earlier after recovering from his dental work.
“This was the second cavity of my life,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling good yesterday. I just walked through practice.”
He was asked how he managed to recover and respond the way he did.
“I prayed on it,” he said. “A lot of loved ones, a lot of people in the community came out and supported me and the team tonight. My coach and my teammates believed in me and gave me an opportunity. That’s what helped make it special.
”It was my bobblehead night. I got in a rhythm.”
Butler did that.
The 12-year National Basketball Association veteran sank 12 of 21 shots from the field, 4 of 4 free throws, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out five assists in 32 minutes – the second-longest stint on his team.
He was more than ready to respond when Drew called for No. 3 – and coincidentally steal the thunder of the last player to wear that number for the Bucks. Brandon Jennings, dealt to the Pistons during the offseason, scored 30 points as well, but Milwaukee got 56 points from its bench and emerged with the “W.”
Butler embraced his extended run after averaging only 8 minutes of action in Milwaukee’s six previous contests.
“Obviously I’m well-rested,” he said. “I’ve been chillin’ a little on the sideline for a while. I was excited to get back out there and just play. The coaching staff and my teammates believed in me, got me open and got me into a rhythm.”
“You want to maximize your opportunity and build off something. We got that opportunity. My teammates believed in me. I believed in them. We played together and played well and we were able to string together a win.”
Butler had expressed frustration over his limited minutes of late, but his commitment to his team hasn’t wavered.
“I understand the process,” he said. “It’s frustrating at times.
“At the same time, I see the big picture. We’ve got some unbelievable talent – Khris (Middleton), Giannis (Antetokounmpo), the list goes on. We want those guys to play. They’ve been doing a good job. I just want to be out there to help my little brothers get over the hump.”
Backup center Miroslav Raduljica, who contributed eight points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals to the win in 19 minutes, said Butler’s veteran leadership has been invaluable.
“He’s our most experienced guy,” Raduljica said. “To play like that, this was something we needed. We needed a good leader.
“He always talks to me and the other younger guys about what to do, where to put our bodies … he is really helpful.”
Butler enjoys mentoring his younger teammates.
“I really have enjoyed the process, watching Giannis and watching Nate (Wolters) and big Miroslav, all those guys,” he said. “I really want the team to help those guys … Khris Middleton, Brandon Knight, too.
“They wanted me to do the Martin Luther King announcement tonight. I thought it would be a great experience for Brandon. He’s a real humble kid. He’s been playing great basketball. I told him, ‘Take it this time.’ I gave him some pointers and he did a great job. That’s why I enjoy watching this maturation process.”
Butler appreciates Drew for all of the opportunities he has extended him.
“I love Coach,” Butler said. “His door is always open, literally. We’ll stop practice and I’ll want to talk about something that’s on my mind. He responds to all my texts. Whatever I need, he’s a shoulder to lean on. That’s a special relationship.”
Drew expressed his admiration for Butler, too.
“I’ve been in this league a long time as a player and as a coach,” Drew said. “I’ve crossed paths with a lot of players that have dealt with these types of situations, but they haven’t been as professional.
“The one thing I can say about him is he has been nothing but a professional – nothing but a gentleman the way he has approached this thing.”
Drew offered a suggestion to the Bucks promotional staff on Butler’s behalf, too.
"We need to have another bobblehead night for him,” he said.