Caron Butler says that his knee isn't an issue after not having played… (Bret Hartman / Associated…)
On Jan. 1, 2011, Caron Butler began the New Year inauspiciously, rupturing the patellar tendon in his right knee, ending his season after he had surgery.
He sat out the final 53 regular-season games, never getting to play during the Dallas Mavericks' run to the NBA championship last season.
Now Butler is playing for the Clippers, and he maintained that his knee isn't an issue after not having played in an NBA game in almost a year. He played Christmas Day in his first game since the injury.
He wears a black brace on the knee during practice and games, a constant reminder of the many hours he put in rehabilitating.
The Clippers wanted Butler because he filled a void at the small forward spot, and said he was the productive player they needed, signing him to a three-year, $24-million deal.
He was averaging 13.8 points per game before the Clippers played the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night at Staples Center.
Butler was also averaging 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
"I'm more than satisfied with just the way I'm feeling and my production," Butler said. "Just being out there, being able to run and being able to keep up with the pace of the game, because I hadn't played in a year. Any workout that you do, it's not the same.
"But I'm feeling great, moving good and I'm on pace."
In Butler's eyes, he's not far away from the days before he had the injury.
He was averaging 15 points and shooting 45% from the field, 43.1% from three-point range, during the first 29 games in Dallas before he was hurt.
In his first five games with the Clippers, Butler was making 45.6% of his shots.
"Basketball is about timing," he said. "With so many different pieces, you're just trying to pick and choose your spots and develop some great timing with this new ballclub."
It looks as if Butler is spotting up more in the offense instead of attacking.
Just about half of his shots have come from three-point range, where he is seven for 24 (29.2%). He is 26 for 57 overall from the field.
Butler said he's learning how to play off point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin.
"You just get to spots and you try to capitalize on opportunities when they come to you," Butler said. "You know you may be featured at some point. Right now, you have two featured guys that are superstars, which are great, so I don't have no problem with it. I fall back and play my role and try to remain consistent."
Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said he wants to get Butler more touches.
Del Negro said Butler is very good in the 16-to-18-foot range, just around the free-throw line area.
"We have to do a better job getting Caron more involved," Del Negro said. "I have to do a better job and us as a team overall. Caron in that mid-range, we can run things through him a little bit, too. So, we've got to find a way to do a better job of getting him some more touches because he can put a lot of pressure on the defense."
Butler is not complaining about his role in the offense.
He watches film constantly and says he can do a better job himself.
"I'm hard on myself," Butler said. "I try to continue to improve and get better. Sometimes when coach sees me, he's like, 'Hey, I'm going to get you involved.' I tell him I'm just hard on myself because I try to be the best I can be."