CARON BUTLER HEALTHY HEADING INTO CAMP

The veteran small forward talked about his summer which included a trip to China, a vacation in the Northeast, and workout regimen that has him leaner than previous seasons.

Caron Butler
Butler brings the ball up court in Game 2 against the Spurs.

Three days away from the opening of training camp, small forward Caron Butler is as fresh as he’s ever been.

“This is probably the first time in four or five years that I’ve entered a season without at least some kind of nagging injury, so I feel great,” Butler said Wednesday at the Clippers’ Playa Vista Training Center. “Last year, coming off the lockout and my knee injury, and kind of getting ‘thrown’ into it I felt like I was pretty successful, averaging 12 points and doing a lot of little things to make a contribution. And only missing two games [due to injury].”

The Clippers are counting on Butler, in his second season with the team, to again start at small forward with recently-added free agents Grant Hill and Matt Barnes to slot in as reserves.

A year removed from a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee, Butler scored 12.0 points in 29.7 minutes per game in 2011-12. He served as an inspirational leader, too, playing nine of the team’s 11 postseason games with a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand.

It seems as though the 32-year-old Butler has put both injuries behind him.

“The last offseason was about building up strength in my knee,” he said. “This year I could really focus on my strength and conditioning.”

And while he entered camp last December at close to full-strength, he was far from where he is now. Among other things, he’s leaner; thanks to a cycling regimen that consisted of riding up to 20 miles per day in the hills of Virginia. It also helped that his broken hand did not require surgery, allowing him to work continuously throughout the summer.

Despite putting in time on and off the court to prepare for the new season, Butler managed a brief respite, which included a six-day trip to the Hamptons.

“I went with my family and extended family [on vacation],” he said. “We turned our phones off, put all of them in a basket and didn’t look them. We just relaxed, and spent time together.”

After returning from vacation, Butler helped the United Way by leading “Get Active with Caron Butler,” a fitness event in his hometown of Racine, Wisconsin in July. He also visited China as part of an NBA Cares initiative with Starkey Hearing Foundation to help deliver hearing aids to nearly 7,000 hearing-impaired children and adults in Xi’an and Chengdu.

Butler said he first recognized the importance of helping in the community when playing at the University of Connecticut for recently retired head coach Jim Calhoun, with whom Butler still interacts.

“[Coach Calhoun] taught me a lot,” Butler said. “He taught me how to be a man; how to act like a professional on and off the basketball court. He was probably the only coach from a major program that was willing to take a chance on me because I had gone through some adversity [early in life]. He came up to Maine Central Institute (Butler’s high school) and told me that [UConn] was like a family.”

More than a decade later, Butler brings the same thing to the Clippers; his summer of work, serving as evidence.