Don't Sleep on Caron Butler

Caron Butler pumps up the crowd in Los Angeles during a Clippers game.

“He was one of the best people I've ever coached," former University of Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun said about Caron Butler in a 2008 article in The Washington Post.

It goes without saying, but receiving such high praise from a legendary coach is hugely impressive.

Perhaps more poignant, however, is that Caron Butler’s work ethic and genuinely compassionate demeanor aren’t forced or practiced; they’re natural. That’s just the type of person he is.

Butler, an eleven-year NBA veteran, has unconsciously made a habit of impressing people – both on and off the court – everywhere he’s been. Certainly, his environment may have changed a few times during his career but his effort, reliability and appeal have not. Case in point: After being traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 2010, Butler wrote a letter to the editor of The Washington Post thanking Wizards fans for their unwavering support throughout his time with the team.

“During my 4 1/2 years as a Wizard, I learned many valuable lessons, especially how to give back to the community,” the 6-7, 228-pound forward wrote in the letter. “The most rewarding part of my time in Washington was meeting the incredible people of this city, and I will miss you all.”

Classy move.

Additionally, back in 2011 as a member of the Dallas Mavericks, the entire team dedicated their championship run to him after he ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee which would force him to miss the entire second half of the season.

In fact, when the injury happened, several Mavericks players motioned to the training staff that he needed to be carried off the floor.

But in an amazing display of strength, heart and determination, Butler got back up without any help and walked to the locker room on his own.

That moment was the perfect embodiment of why he’s known as “Tuff Juice.”

“He's just one of those special guys,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said to ESPN about Butler during the 2011 NBA finals. “He's a month-and-a-half, two months ahead of the normal rehab schedule for a normal human being. It just shows the kind of work he's put into it, the sort of single-minded compulsiveness of his approach and how diligent he's been. "It's been an inspiration to have him around."

Now as a member of the Phoenix Suns, there’s little doubt he’ll have the same influence on the team and fans alike.

Butler brings a blue-collar, gritty approach to Phoenix – a welcomed asset to any team. Always considered an outstanding teammate, he is also a career 44 percent shooter and an underrated, physical defender.

Suns fans might be surprised to know that he and Lebron James were the only players in the NBA to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and four assists per game in both the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.

Needless to say, Butler’s combination of a strong work ethic and uncanny ability to score the ball make him a valued addition to the Suns.

“They are two guys that have played on a winning team and will bring that winning attitude here,” Head Coach Jeff Hornacek said about the Suns’ newest additions in Butler and guard Eric Bledsoe. “They know what it takes. The Clippers were a very good team last year and those guys were a big part of it.

“It’s great to have those guys involved in our team and bring some of that mentality here.” Yet, as impressive as Butler is on the court, his impact off it may be even more meaningful. June 8th is known as “Caron Butler Day” in his hometown of Racine, WI – a prestigious honor bestowed upon Butler in 2007 for his philanthropic efforts throughout the community. During the course of his career, he’s given thousands of winter coats to children in need, provided bicycles to over 2,500 youth and held basketball camps on an annual basis as a means to promote healthy living.

This much is clear: For the Suns, a young team on the rise, having a high-character, effective veteran like Caron Butler to learn from should prove to be invaluable.