MILWAUKEE -- This season hasn't exactly been the homecoming Caron Butler expected. The Racine, Wis., native came to the Milwaukee Bucks expecting to play a central role in the rebuilding process but has instead found himself averaging about 24 minutes per game on the worst team in the NBA.
After letting his frustrations come out last week, the 12-year veteran saw just five minutes of playing time as Milwaukee's losing skid stretched to nine games with a pair of losses at Houston and San Antonio.
Wednesday night against the Pistons, though, Butler finally had the breakthrough that both he and the Bucks needed. On the night that his bobblehead was given out at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Butler turned in one of his best performances of the season with 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists while playing 32-plus minutes off the bench to lead the Bucks to their first win of the new year, 104-101.
"This is a special day for me," Butler said. "A lot of loved ones, a lot of people in the community came out and supported me and the team tonight, so it's a special night. You want to put on a good show."
And put on a good show he did. Butler scored 14 of his points in the second quarter on 6 of 10 shooting to keep the Bucks neck-and-neck with the Pistons. With under a minute left in the third and the Bucks trailing by 10, Butler hit back-to-back 25-footers to make the deficit more reasonable heading into the final quarter. Despite picking up four fouls in a span of two minutes midway through in the fourth, Butler stayed in the game down the stretch to help secure the victory.
In short, whenever the Bucks needed a big shot or a big play Butler was there.
"He was absolutely phenomenal today," head coach Larry Drew said. "He shot the ball extremely well and did a lot of other things. . . . He played a very solid and complete game on both ends of the floor."
What makes Butler's night even more impressive is that he did it two days removed from getting a root canal and was questionable coming into the game.
"I wasn't feeling good yesterday and felt extremely weak, and coach just walked through the practice and he believed in me tonight and gave me the opportunity," Butler said. "That's why it was even more special."
It's been a long time coming for Butler, who played more than 30 minutes for the first time since December 23. His lack of playing time has been a sore subject lately, and with O.J. Mayo out due to illness, Butler knew he had to make the most of this opportunity.
"Obviously I'm well rested," Butler said. "I've been chillin' on the sideline for a while and I was excited to get out there and just play. The coaching staff and my teammates believed in me and got me open and got me into a rhythm."
As much as Butler has disliked the situation that has developed regarding the team's struggles and his lack of playing time, he recognizes that he's part of a grander plan. He wants to be part of the rebuild not as a mentor on the sidelines but as a brother in arms helping his teammates on the court.
"I know it's frustrating at times, I'm human so I'm going to be honest with you, but I see the big picture," Butler said. "I see we've got some unbelievable talent in Brandon Knight, Giannis (Antetokounmpo), the list goes on.
"You want those guys to play and they've been doing a good job, but you want to be out there to help your little brothers get over the hump. Tonight was a special night to do that."
Butler's aims have not been lost on his head coach. Drew says that he tries to remind Butler on a daily basis that he appreciates the veteran forward's professionalism and commitment to his teammates.
"I've been in this league a long time as a player and as a coach and I've crossed a lot of paths with a lot of players that have dealt with these types of situations but they haven't been as professional," Drew said. "The one thing I can say about (Butler) is he has been nothing but a professional, nothing but a gentleman the way he has approached this thing.
"We need to have another bobblehead night for him."
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