TORONTO — Caron Butler has never played so few minutes in his 11 seasons in the NBA and, in his second season with the Clippers, he is also close to a career low in scoring.
But Butler is not complaining.
He is the starting small forward and would like to play more. But Butler knows that his backup, Matt Barnes, has been playing some of the best basketball of his 10-year career, and that has taken playing time away from Butler.
Butler is averaging 23.9 minutes per game, the sixth-most on the Clippers, while also averaging 9.8 points per game, the fifth-most on the team. But he lags behind Barnes in minutes (26.2) and scoring (10.8 points).
It's the lowest scoring average for Butler since his second season with the Miami Heat in 2003-04 (9.2 points).
"Whatever is needed at that time, you have to be ready and you have to be a pro," Butler said. "For the most part, Matt has been having a unbelievable year. He has been playing great basketball."
When Barnes was ejected Wednesday against Minnesota for a flagrant foul 2 committed against Timberwolves backup center Greg Stiemsma in the second quarter, Butler figured he would have to play more.
And he did. Butler played a season-high 35 minutes, his most since Nov. 26, when he played 34 minutes.
"I didn't know how Coach [Vinny Del Negro] was going to approach it," Butler said. "I knew it was going to be more minutes out there between myself, Willie [Green], Lamar [Odom] and obviously Grant [Hill]. We were going to have to manufacture minutes and make something happen out of those minutes, and fortunately it was me [Wednesday] night and I was able to come through."
Butler scored 19 points on seven-for-12 shooting and had five rebounds and a steal.
His three-point shot late in the fourth quarter also gave the Clippers a lead they never lost.
"My number was called," Butler said. "I was ready, my teammates found me in rhythm and that's what was needed."
The Clippers canceled practice when they arrived in Toronto on Thursday.
But the plan was for Blake Griffin (sore left ankle) and Chris Paul (bone bruise in right kneecap) to get therapy for their injuries.
Griffin will play against the Raptors on Friday night, but Paul is expected to miss his sixth straight game.
Del Negro said Chauncey Billups (tendinitis in left foot) continues to make progress but is not expected to play Friday.