Back when the Shaquille O’Neal trade was completed in July 2004, every story that was written included the fact that the Lakers failed to get back a single All-Star player for their franchise center. That changed Thursday when Caron Butler was selected as an Eastern Conference reserve to the All-Star Game. The only problem? Butler now plays for the Washington Wizards.
In the interest of fairness, it must be noted that the standard for being selected a forward out of the Western Conference was so high that neither Carmelo Anthony nor Josh Howard was chosen, although both could be injury replacements as selected by NBA commissioner David Stern. Lamar Odom also would have merited consideration had he stayed healthy. That said, Butler is having a career season with the Wizards.
He’s averaging 20.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg and shooting 47.8 percent. Butler also is playing for the team with the East’s best record. Here’s a link to a pretty good article about how Butler took the next step in going from a good player to an elite one. It also helps that Butler found stability after bouncing from Miami to LA to Washington and is playing for a general manager in Ernie Grunfeld who has followed him since high school.
I’m sure the Lakers are happy for Butler, who developed enough of a friendship with Kobe Bryant that he invited him to his mother’s house in Racine, Wis., on a road trip. Butler wound up being the casualty on a roster with too many small forwards and was traded to Washington for Kwame Brown. Phil Jackson has admitted not knowing how he would have played Butler, either in the backcourt or on the wing, as a starter or coming off the bench.
My question is whether Butler’s selection as an All-Star changes anyone’s perception about the Shaq trade or about the trade that brought Brown to the Lakers. When you measure the impact of each player, Butler has helped make the Wizards a better team even after losing Larry Hughes and Jared Jeffries to free agency. Brown finds himself competing for minutes with Andrew Bynum, the Lakers’ center of the future.
It’s also worth noting that Washington has Butler signed for four more seasons at an average of about $9.6 million. That’s a pretty good value for a (now) All-Star player. Brown is under contract for one more season and will make $9.1 million. The Wizards actually will be paying Butler less next season than the Lakers will be paying Brown.
Great quote also from Butler about being selected as an All-Star: “It’s really special to be a part of that elite group. It’s like ‘Cheers.’ You want to go where everyone knows your name, where you are recognized as a star. It’s a great feeling.”
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Speaking of Brown, he was on the court at the end of practice Thursday at Conseco Fieldhouse. Jackson said Brown wouldn’t play Friday against Indiana and probably wouldn’t play Saturday against Washington. Here was Jackson’s update on how Brown looked and how his sprained ankle felt:
“Hes complaining but thats not unusual,” Jackson said. “He came out a little bit and dunked the ball and then went back off the floor and said it hurt. So his live-ball activitys a little bit limited still. But he did some things.
Jackson smiled and said “I would imagine not D.C.” when he was asked about Brown possibly returning Saturday. Brown’s not exactly a favorite son after he was selected No. 1 overall in 2001 and spent four turbulent seasons in Washington. But Jackson said he wouldn’t hesitate in bringing back Brown for that game if he was healthy.
“Not at all,” Jackson said. “I think players should step up and have to face the music.’
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Some trivia to end with: Name the only team the Lakers have yet to play this season. One hint is that they’ll face that team twice in the same week this month.
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Here’s the notes for Thursday. I’m happy to say the initial question about Smush Parker was something I’d been thinking about after a post on this blog last week.
By Ross Siler
INDIANAPOLIS–There was no way of knowing it when Smush Parker showed up at the Long Beach summer league in July 2005 but the playground legend from New York someday would start 128 consecutive games (and counting) for the Lakers.
For a player who went undrafted out of Fordham, failed to stick with three previous NBA teams and is making the leagues minimum salary, Parkers streak is remarkable, if rarely acknowledged amid the Lakers daily drama.
Yet while Parker has established himself as an NBA player during his 1 1-2 seasons with the Lakers, the 25-year-old guard also has left coach Phil Jackson at times wondering about his sense of entitlement.
“Sometimes I dont think Smush understands the value of what hes received and having that opportunity, Jackson said Thursday. “Secondly, Im happy that hes been able to do that because thats a remarkable stretch.
“But its kind of a two-way street, the reward or the value of what that opportunity means to him.
With Parker set to become a free agent this summer, the Lakers will evaluate through the end of the season whether he should be a starting guard for them in the future.
Parker will have two seasons of experience in the triangle offense in his favor. At the same time, the Lakers will be looking to take the next step in becoming championship contenders, which could involve signing or trading for another guard.
For now, Jackson said the Lakers “keep looking at the whole quality of Smushs games. That goes beyond scoring to encompass Parkers leadership, the pressure defense he plays and his ability to be a playmaker for his teammates.
There also is the matter of consistency. Jackson cited Parkers play in Tuesdays loss to New York, when he scored the Lakers first 11 points but missed 9 of 10 shots the rest of the game and finished with 14 points.
“Hes still going from game to game working on that, Jackson said. “I thought the other night he started out great at Madison Square Garden and then got behind the eight ball. All of a sudden, nothing worked for him and then he started forcing things just to force it. Thats where I want to see him grow.
Parkers numbers have improved every month this season – - he averaged 13.3 points in January – - and he recently credited a lunch with owner Jerry Buss to improving his attitude. No longer does Parker stalk off the court after being replaced in games.
Jackson also said Parker was upset earlier in the season when forward Brian Cook signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract extension. There are few full-time starters making as little as Parker, who $798,112 salary is the minimum for a fourth-year player.
“Hes making a salary thats by and large four times or five times less than a person who starts at that position, Jackson said. “It may not be recompense or reward for whats hes doing for us but yet its a valuable opportunity for him in the future that bodes really well.
Three for all: For the first time all season, Vladimir Radmanovic has scored in double figures in three consecutive games. Yet Jackson was not about to officially shed the “space cadet label he gave Radmanovic earlier in the season.
After watching Radmanovic hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key in the fourth quarter Wednesday, Jackson said he told him: “Im not impressed. That was not a good shot. It went in, but it was not a good shot.
“Those things were trying to eliminate, Jackson added, “just casting up a shot because it just might feel good.