Butler Meshes with Thunder in First Practice

The Thunder was confident in the group that was already assembled in the locker room, but when Caron Butler became available, the opportunity was one that neither party wanted to miss.

After signing with the Thunder on Saturday, the NBA veteran forward who is in his 12th season joined the team for the first time on Monday as the team got together at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center. Over the weekend, General Manager Sam Presti spoke about why Butler meshes with the Thunder’s identity and will fit in nicely with the culture that has been developed by team leaders like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison over the years.

“The thing that we really like about him is that his is resilient,” Presti said. “He is a guy that is a grinder, he’s tough minded and he’s a guy with great bounce back. Those are things that we value.”

Just like the rest of the Thunder and the fans who support the team, Butler’s toughness, perseverance and commitment are all innate characteristics that have allowed him to have such a long career, and also make him a valuable addition to the squad.

After arriving in Oklahoma City on Sunday, Butler got acquainted with his new teammates and Head Coach Scott Brooks in Monday morning’s practice session. It was clear from talking to Brooks that Butler will mesh fittingly the other 13 men on the roster.

“The practice went well,” Brooks said. “It was great to spend a few minutes before practice getting familiar with him and a little bit of his background. From all the information I gathered before I met him today, it matched up. I’m excited about him.”

The same characteristics that attracted Presti, Brooks and the rest of the Thunder organization to Butler are the ones the former Milwaukee Bucks forward identified as enticing about Oklahoma City and the Thunder. Butler said that he’s kept an eye on the Thunder, has always appreciated the energy and atmosphere in Chesapeake Energy Arena, and felt that this situation was a great chance to make an impact on a championship contending team. His exact role is uncertain at this time, which is perfectly fine with Butler, who just wants to find a niche in order to help the team continue to succeed.

“I just love what this whole organization represents and I thought it would be a good fit,” Butler said. “Wherever I can fit in, whether it’s off the bench, a starter, in spots, whatever the case, I just want to be a part of this movement and have my fingerprints on this team’s success.”

“It was very attractive,” Butler explained. “Just looking at Oklahoma City and the young nucleus, guys that are on the verge of greatness. I watched some of the teams periodically throughout the course of the year early season and I thought this team had a shot and that’s without me even in the mix. I just wanted to add my insight, add my fingerprints on it and be a part of this special movement.”

In terms of his tangible on-court role, there are a few aspects of Butler’s skill set that will be at the forefront of his responsibilities, when he sees minutes. Butler’s ability to defend multiple positions along the perimeter and even some power forwards gives the Thunder yet another viable option on the wing, depending on matchups and opposing personnel. On the offensive end, Butler and Brooks identified his ability to knock down open shots from the perimeter as an asset. With elite-level playmakers in Durant and Westbrook, along with other skilled offensive players like Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb in the mix, Butler’s ability to hit shots in the flow of the offense and play off of others can be a benefit to the team.

“We were talking about that in the breakfast meeting this morning,” Butler said. “About defending and bringing a certain edge on defense and being able to be a stretch guy to knock down shots and be consistent in that component.”

“He’s a veteran guy who is going to pick up things fairly quickly, so that’s exciting,” Brooks explained. “He definitely will add to our team in many different ways and on different levels. His experience and his toughness adds to what we have now.”

Both on the court and in the locker room, Butler hopes to bring toughness, leadership and his championship experience from his time with the Dallas Mavericks. There was one other word he used, however, that was particularly striking, and is perhaps the most important virtue that every Thunder player tries to live by each day.

“Sacrifice,” Butler said emphatically. “As you get older, you realize the importance of legacy and what you want to leave behind and what you want to take with you.”