Caron Butler met with the media for the first time today and lived up to the hype of being a true professional.
After his first practice with the Thunder, he answered questions for six minutes about what made him choose Oklahoma City, what he brings to the Thunder, how he thinks he’ll fit and, of course, why his nickname is “Tuff Juice.”
Q: Tell us what the process was and really why you wanted to come here with the Thunder.
A: I just thought it would be a great opportunity for me as a veteran guy to play alongside some of the elite talents like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and obviously (Serge) Ibaka and (Kendrick) Perkins and the list goes on. It’s a young core, a young nucleus, and I like what they represent. Playing in the Washington area for years, I had a chance to watch Kevin mature and become this superstar that he’s become. And I just love what he represents. I love what this whole organization represents, and I thought it would be a good fit.
You’ve gone up against these guys obviously before and have seen them from a far. Did you have any kind of personal relationship with any of them on the team before now?
We got a couple o UConn guys in Jeremy Lamb and Thabeet, and obviously they have a great medical staff and the head trainer in Joe Sharpe. I was familiar with all of those guys, and they told me so many great things about the organization prior to this upcoming season. So it was always a place that I felt like was it exciting to play. I felt like they always had the sixth man wild out there. It’s just a great atmosphere for basketball. And coming from the University of Connecticut, Storrs was always rocking and that’s something that I missed and was willing to accept back with open arms.
What’s the biggest thing you think you bring to the team?
Obviously I’m a leader in my own right. I’m a veteran guy that can talk about adversities on and off the court. So I’m definitely going to bring a certain toughness. I’m not going to brag about it. It’s a certain toughness that I walk with just because of the edge that I have all the time. And just wherever I can fit in, whether it’s off the bench, starter, spots, whatever the case, I just want to be a part of this movement and have my fingerprints on this team’s success.
Sam (Presti) and coach (Scott) Brooks mentioned your ability to defend multiple positions. Is your versatility a potential asset for this team?
Yeah, I mean, we were talking about that in the breakfast meeting this morning about defending and bringing a certain edge on defense and being able to be a stretch guy to knock down shots and be consistent in that component. Having Thabo (Sefolosha) down for a couple of weeks, and obviously Perk, we’re going to see a lot of different lineups and a lot of different things out there. I just got to be prepared for anything. The nature of this beast is you have to stay prepared, and I’m definitely prepared.
You’re kind of seen as a 3/4. With Thabo out, though, how comfortable are you with that 2-guard spot, and do you think you’ll see minutes there?
Like I said, I’ll be pretty much a little bit of everywhere from our conversation this morning. And playing with the Bucks, and just playing in the NBA the last two seasons, you see positions kind of change. Guys, they’re going small in certain areas. You see a lot of traditional 3s that’s playing 4. So I’m just prepared for anything.
You’ve just had one practice and then shootaround tomorrow, if Scotty calls your number tomorrow night will you feel comfortable going in?
(Laughs). Yeah. I’m going to be happy going in and do whatever I can. We’re looking at the big picture and that’s being prepared for the playoffs and making a push. So at some point very soon I’m going to have to play and be inducted into a lot of the practices and stuff and find a rhythm amongst these guys. So what better way to do it than live action?
You said you’re a veteran so you’re used to this. But what is that transition like to come in, have a meeting with coach Brooks, go to practice? Is it easy, or is it kind of a whirlwind?
For those who are not familiar with me, my name is James Caron Butler. I’m an 11-year vet. I was traded three times this year. So I was in Phoenix for three weeks. I bought a home, packed it up, took the kids back out of school. I have five children, four girls, one boy. Migrated back to Milwaukee after being traded from Los Angeles prior to Phoenix. And now I’m in Oklahoma.
Why do you go by Caron and not James?
It’s my grandfather’s name.
And then “Tuff Juice.” You got to explain that to us and where that came from.
I had a fair share of injuries, one that kept me out of the Finals in 2011 with Dallas. I ruptured my patella tendon. That’s just one of the things that stuck with me through injuries or whatever, I always find a way to overcome it.
A lot of people thought you were going to sign with Miami when you became available. How tough a decision was it?
It was a tough decision for a lot of reasons just because you have so many viable contenders that’s reaching out for you and asking for your services in different ways. But Oklahoma was the place that I wanted to be, and I decided to come. And I prayed on it, and you can’t question God.
People talk about experience, but there’s also championship experience. Having gone through that ride, I know you were injured, but is that something that’s real, having experience on championship teams?
Yeah, I think it’s definitely real, sharing that experience in the locker room and being a part of that team for more than half a season and still being in that locker room throughout the course and the battles and just having your fingerprints on that whole championship run was special. So I got a lot of insight.
You’ve been outspoken about your upbringing, your background, things you went through in life. How did all of that adversity and where you are now, how did that shape you?
Being incarcerated at a young age, being locked up for more than a year, and getting out and going through all that adversity, I think it shaped me into the man I am today. Just because nothing I’ve ever gotten has come easy. I’m willing to work for it. And I’m willing to start that process tomorrow night.