The Norman Transcript

Local Sports

May 11, 2014

Butler’s role with Thunder no longer in question

LOS ANGELES — When Oklahoma City traded for Caron Butler right before the trade deadline, not much was known about him. Most knew he was well traveled and had played on five previous teams, but how he could help the Thunder was still a mystery at that point on March 1. With young players such as Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb getting quality minutes, it wasn’t known where he would fit in.

If those questions hadn’t been answered before, they were Friday during Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers. Butler came off the bench to provide 14 points to help Oklahoma City prevail 118-112.

Afterward, coach Scott Brooks was asked what he thought he was getting when they traded for Butler.

“A guy with character. A guy that has been here before. A guy that knows how to play,” Brooks said, “and makes big shots.”

It seemed like each of the three 3-pointers Butler knocked down were big shots. Whether he was left alone or with a hand in his face, he didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger in the pressure-packed game.

But Butler continually deflects the shine to the team’s best players. While some may have questioned his place on the team when he got to Oklahoma City, since Butler has been nothing but the consummate role player.

“We’re just doing a great job of playing off our superstars,” Butler said. “They are a problem. They’re the best duo in basketball. They’re a problem every night in and night out. They’re going to draw double-teams, mismatches and tilt defenses, and everything, so we’ve just got to do a great job of capitalizing on it.”

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 19 assists in Game 2. Several of those were to Butler, who often spotted up in the corner.

“I looked to score first,” Durant said, “but they did a good job of showing me a good picture. Caron was doing a great job of spacing. He did what’s he’s been doing for a while — knocking down those shots. We trust him to hit those shots. We’re always going to go to him no matter what if he’s open.”

Even though Butler’s previous two games of the series were forgettable, Brooks didn’t hesitate to call on him.

“One thing I love about our guys, we never lose confidence,” Brooks said. “When Caron was open, we found him on time, on target immediately. He hasn’t shot the ball well. You’re going to have that as a player, as a team. But you have to have a foundation to know that. You know what, I’ve been. It’s going to turn for me and it did.”

Butler’s importance to the Thunder was summed up by Durant during his MVP speech. During a low period in the season for Durant, Butler, who had been with the team for only a short time, left a note in Durant’s locker telling him he was the MVP. A veteran move that was needed at the right time.

“I don’t really say much in those moments, but I remember that,” a tearful Durant said at the time. “I go home and I think about that stuff, man. When you got people behind you, you can do whatever.”

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