Posted Sep 29 2010 7:19PM - Updated Sep 30 2010 8:56AM
DALLAS -- Caron Butler is heading into a contract year. He may also be headed to the Mavericks' bench. He professes that neither is a worry, even if he can't help but think about it.
He's being asked about both, after all.
"I'm just focused on the team goals," Butler told NBA.com after Wednesday's training camp practice at SMU. "I know the more successful we are, the more successful everybody will be individually. I'm just focused on winning and striving for a title.
"That's the only focus of mine."
Butler's future and fit with the Mavericks has been a topic of interest since April's stunning first-round upset by San Antonio. Butler was one of the few bright spots for No. 2 seed Dallas, averaging 30 points in the last two games of the series.
But uncertainty lingered throughout the summer about Butler. With a contract that expires at the end of this season for $10.6 million, his name is naturally going to be brought up in connection to trade rumors. And the Mavericks have been known to make a blockbuster or two.
The Mavericks currently don't have any plans to talk extension with Butler, according to general manager Donnie Nelson. Referring to this past offseason with Dirk Nowitzki, Nelson said any discussions with Butler would be tabled until next summer.
Asked point-blank if he wanted to work out a long-term agreement with Dallas -- his fourth team -- Butler simply said: "I'm keeping my options open."
There's also the issue of position duplication with Shawn Marion. Both are natural small forwards. Both are 6-foot-7. Both have been offensive focal points at times throughout their NBA lives, which each owning career scoring averages of about 17 points. Both are career starters.
There are differences, of course. Marion is considered the more versatile defender, while Butler has a more diverse offensive repertoire. While each brings a different skill set, do their games truly complement each other? Butler didn't see any problems meshing with Marion last season.
"I truly didn't," Butler said. "I thought we did a great job as a the second seed in the Western Conference. We played unbelievable, particularly in the second half of the season, with us out there together. We'll see what happens."
What probably is going to happen is either Butler or Marion eventually moving to the bench. The Mavericks want to eventually pair Jason Kidd in the backcourt with the explosive Roddy Beaubois, currently recovering from a broken foot.
"It is what it is," Butler said. "Coach is going to make a decision of what's best for the team and we've just got to roll with it, whatever the decision may be. Either way I look forward to performing at a high level."
The front office insists the whole Butler-Marion subject is a non-story. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle assures having both together for a full season is a strength, not a concern. (Butler arrived in Dallas in a February trade-deadline deal with Washington.)
Carlisle also made it clear the organization isn't going to tolerate in playing-time discord.
"I don't care if guys are happy or unhappy about their minutes," he said. "I mean, when you are talking about winning at the highest level, individual needs for minutes and touches, if that stuff is coming into the equation, then you've got guys that really aren't about the right thing.
"So I think at this point, we've got to address those issues if they come up. But anybody that presents themselves with that kind of selfishness isn't deserving of being in a Maverick uniform."
Carlisle has already talked to both Butler and Marion individually about the possibility of going to the bench. Whatever move is made, the Mavericks already have one of the league's deepest and most-potent reserve units. Marion or Butler would join Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea as the second-team headliners.
Butler reported to camp slimmer and determined to be a dangerous offensive force. He feels more of a connection with Kidd and more comfortable overall.
"I already see that coming along," Butler said, "running the court and Jason finding me in rhythm. We've got some different sets that cater to what I do and what I'm used to doing. So far, so good."
The early betting line in Dallas has Marion as the likely bench exile. His minutes were drastically cut in the playoffs and he's probably best suited of those on the current roster to back up Nowitzki. On the flip side, if you're waging on one being in Dallas long-term, it's Marion. The longtime Suns wingman also has four years left on his contract.
Butler is down to one. Not that he's focusing on it.
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