HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Caron Butler has sidestepped the King and a three-peat bid to serve the noble cause of delivering Kevin Durant title No. 1.
The veteran forward, bought out by the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, had been speculated to join the Miami Heat, the team that drafted him 10th overall in 2002 and, in ’04, traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers in a package for Shaquille O’Neal. Instead, the 6-foot-7 Butler intends to play for the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder when he clears waivers, multiple news outlets have reported.
Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, who was among the first to report the news, has more:
Caron Butler has chosen to sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder over the Miami Heat, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Butler informed teams of his decision on Friday morning, a league source told Yahoo Sports.
After securing a contract buyout from the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday morning, Butler is expected to clear waivers on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET, and will sign for the rest of the season to play with Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Despite close relationships and history with the Miami Heat, Butler decided that his best opportunity to make an impact and chase a championship belonged with Oklahoma City. Miami has lost out on the top two free-agent buyout players in Danny Granger and Butler.
The fact that Oklahoma City stopped pursuing Granger several days before his Los Angeles Clippers commitment led many in the NBA to believe the Thunder were confident of securing Butler as a free agent.
Butler, who turns 34 on March 13, will be a significant veteran pick-up for the youthful Thunder, who will benefit from Butler’s rugged, perimeter defense in isolated matchups. His addition allows Durant to occasionally lessen his defensive load, and Butler is a capable shooter from mid-range to the 3-point arc.
OKC is light on wings with starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha being a defensive-minded player and reserve Jeremy Lamb only his second season and first as an integral part of the Thunder’s rotation.
Butler won a title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, knocking off James’ Heat in their first Finals as the Big Three, but Butler was inactive for the entire playoffs after suffering a gruesome knee injury on Jan. 1 during a game at Milwaukee. The Mavs, inspired by Butler’s commitment to work his way back, although ultimately he could not, dedicated their postseason run to him.
He signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Clippers for the 2011-12 season and broke his hand early in the playoffs. He manged to continue playing, saying he wasn’t going to allow another injury to take him out of a second consecutive postseason.
After last season’s first-round exit, the Clippers traded Butler to the Phoenix Suns along with guard Eric Bledsoe. The Suns, more interested in a youth movement, moved Butler to the Bucks, allowing him to play close to family and friends in his hometown of Racine, Wisc.
But the Bucks have been awful and agreed to buy him out of the final year of his contract that pays him $8 million. Butler has been nicked up throughout the season and has played in 34 games with 13 starts. He’s averaged 11.0 ppg and 4.6 rpg in 24.1 mpg. He’s shot just 38.7 percent overall, but a healthy 36.1 percent (53-for-147) from beyond the arc.
Butler is no longer the high-minute, All-Star-type small forward he was a few seasons ago. But in spurts off the bench, he can bring the Thunder the toughness and scoring punch they need.
Meanwhile, the West continues to get even more competitive with Butler headed to OKC and former Indiana small forward Danny Granger committed to joining the Clippers after being bought out by the Pacers.