Dallas Mavericks forward Caron Butler was hoping he'd get the chance… (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press )
You'd have to arrive pretty early to see the matchup.
Kobe Bryant at one end of the court, Caron Butler at the other end, each shooting the ball at his own basket again and again several hours before tipoff.
Former teammates working up a sweat, they won't be playing each other in the Western Conference semifinals because of the ruptured patellar tendon in Butler's right knee.
For a minute, Butler hoped to remind Lakers fans what he used to bring to Staples Center, but Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle put an end to the possibility and said Butler wouldn't play this series.
So Butler and Bryant are reduced to pregame chats, following up in person on their years-long banter via phone calls and text messages.
"I always ask him for insight," Butler said. "He is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. It's always good to hear his take on the game.
"As a professional on the court, he helped me a lot, showing me and teaching me the work ethic and leading by example — some of the things that I took to Washington and helped me become an All-Star-caliber player."
Butler played only one season with the Lakers, leaving in August 2005 as part of the Kwame Brown trade. He was an All-Star in 2007 and 2008 with the Wizards and was acquired by Dallas in February 2010.
He doesn't stray far from Los Angeles, though. He keeps a home in Manhattan Beach and spends part of his off-season there.
"I had a great experience here and it's obviously a historic franchise," Butler said. "I played with some great people — Lamar Odom, Luke Walton and obviously Kobe. Frank Hamblen was an assistant here. Brian Shaw too. They've had a lot of success. I'm happy for them."
There are two things Butler regrets.
He's still not healthy enough to play in this series, though it would be hard to tell from his soaked T-shirt after Wednesday's workout.
"I'm doing a lot of things on the court," he said. "No discomfort, feeling great. We'll have to see what happens."
Translation: He might be available in the West finals if Dallas gets that far.
He also hates missing time with his kids while on the road. Two of his daughters are soccer players, including 7-year-old Mia.
"I missed her game today," Butler said, shaking his head. "She had three goals."