By now, you probably know that Caron Butler is set to join the Oklahoma City Thunder.
You’ve probably read or heard about all that he brings: toughness and experience, professionalism and character, defense and 3-point shooting.
But what few among us know is why Butler, free to sign with any team after being bought out by Milwaukee on Thursday, chose to come to Oklahoma City.
For now, all we can do is assume it’s because the Thunder gives him a chance to win his second championship. But there’s got to be something more.
That alone is something other franchises, like Miami, Indiana, San Antonio, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers, also could offer. And the Thunder, for myriad reasons, couldn’t offer the most money or the most minutes or the biggest and best metropolis.
So what’s bringing Butler to OKC?
One reason could be the Thunder’s culture closely matches Butler’s mentality.
Butler would become only the second player the Thunder has signed after another team agreed to a buyout. Derek Fisher in the 2011-12 season became the first.
Both carried with them well-established reputations for being upstanding citizens, community-minded individuals and championship-driven players. Their attraction to Oklahoma City could say as much about the Thunder as it does about them.
It could say the Thunder is now a prime destination for players who want to win.
Traded players don’t get to choose were they end up, and free agents often are in search for longer and more lucrative deals. Bought-out players, however, are typically veterans who are near the end of their careers and looking to latch on with title contenders.
The Thunder hasn’t pursued many bought-out players through the years because the timing is tricky. You’re often adding an established player in mid-season and, therefore, tinkering with chemistry and continuity, two potentially combustible areas. It’s forced OKC to be selective, targeting only team-first guys who are willing to put aside their egos and individual goals to be part of something bigger than themselves.
But, as we’ve seen with Fisher and now Butler, when the Thunder has spotted the right fits, the team has pounced.
Butler is a 12-year veteran and two-time All-Star who won a championship with Dallas in 2011. He holds career averages of 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.4 steals in 764 games, 710 as a starter.
His role and playing time will be determined by Thunder coach Scott Brooks, but it’s likely several current rotation players will be forced to sacrifice to create minutes for him.
Adjustments will have to be made.
But by now, we know the Thunder wouldn’t be willing to travel this road if both Butler and the current group weren’t prepared to handle it.