The Dallas Mavericks won’t know the full extent of the knee injury to Caron Butler until Monday at the earliest. The initial concern is a torn patella tendon in his right knee, but further tests to determine the injury’s severity won’t be performed until Butler meets with the team’s medical staff for an MRI exam on Monday. Butler has already flown back to Dallas.
NBA.com first reported the possibility of Butler suffering a patella tear, according to league sources, after the Mavericks lost Saturday night at Milwaukee. Dallas is at Cleveland tonight.
Asked if the team knew anything more about Butler’s injury today, Dallas general manager Donnie Nelson told NBA.com: “No, not yet.” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle also said he didn’t have any additional information. The team didn’t want to speculate on the nature of the injury before further tests are done.
Butler, averaging 15.0 points and 4.1 rebounds, was injured in the first quarter of the 99-87 loss to the Bucks. Losing the Mavs’ third-leading scorer is potentially a crippling blow for a team that began the season with championship aspirations and looked every bit the title contender through the first two months.
The Mavericks, though, have lost three in a row coinciding with Dirk Nowitzki‘s knee sprain last week. Without their MVP candidate in the lineup, the Mavs (24-8) dropped games to Toronto, San Antonio and Milwaukee. Dallas was also without Shawn Marion (bruised thigh) last night. The injuries to Nowitzki and Marion aren’t considered serious.
Butler was one the players Carlisle was counting on to pick up the slack in Nowitzki’s absence. Butler scored 30 in the Spurs loss, and is a proven scorer who averaged more than 19 points per game from 2007-09. The 30-year-old Butler is in his ninth season and on the last year of his contract.
Marion is the most likely candidate to fill Butler’s spot in the starting lineup, a move that considerably weakens Dallas’ bench. In addition to playing behind Butler, Marion is also the primary backup power forward to Nowitzki. Brian Cardinal has started the last two games in Nowitzki’s place.
Expect sixth man Jason Terry, the Mavs’ second-leading scorer who’s been mired in a shooting slump, to take on more responsibility. Dallas also hopes to get a boost from rookie guard Dominique Jones, who was recalled from the D-League today after averaging 18.7 points in 10 games for the Texas Legends. The Mavs are also waiting on second-year guard Roddy Beaubois, a dynamic scorer who’s currently rehabbing from a broken foot suffered this past offseason.
The Mavs could apply for a disabled-player exception worth approximately $5.3 million, which is half of Butler’s $10.6 million salary, if it’s determined that Butler is lost for the season. Dallas could sign or trade for a player to fit into that salary spot without giving up anything in return.