When swingman Caron Butler was acquired by the Dallas Mavericks on the eve of the 2010 NBA All-Star Game, played in Cowboys Stadium, he provided an instant upgrade for the Mavs over the departing Josh Howard. In Butler, the Mavs got a two-time NBA All-Star and one of the truly great guys in the NBA.
Butler has been recognized by The Sporting News as one of the top "Good Guys" in sports and also received the NBA's Community Assist Award, honoring his many philanthropic efforts, including "Caron's Coats for Kids," which distributes coats, hats and gloves to youth in his hometown of Racine, Wis. Butler also gained a lot of fans when he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in September 2005, in an episode titled "How My Worst Moment Made Me a Star." On the show, he discussed his troubled youth -- he was arrested 15 times before the age of 15 --- and how he now takes pride in walking a straight line.
The Mavericks' season began Oct. 27 at home against Charlotte; I was able to sit down with the man himself after a shoot-around and chat about the NBA lifestyle and what it's like to be Caron Butler.
JB: You were drafted by the Miami Heat and also played for the Los Angeles Lakers. How does living in Dallas compare to L.A. and Miami?
CB: They are really a lot alike. All three are great cities, but I don't get out too much since I like to stay in with the family [his wife and four children].
JB: You have been a two-time All-Star playing the same position (guard-forward) as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, does that make it extra-special?
CB: Definitely, you get the opportunity night-in and night-out to play against some of the best players in the game and measure yourself against them.
JB: Which celebrity's number do you have in your cellphone that might surprise somebody?
CB: Forest Whitaker. A couple of years ago, we did a movie together called Hurricane Season.
JB: You came into camp looking cut after an off-season spent in the gym. But you also own six Burger Kings. Is there anything you can eat at BK to be able to look like you do right now?
CB: During the course of the season I can eat pretty much anything because I am burning so many calories, but otherwise I'd have to stay with the boiler steamer[-cooked] burger.
JB: When you got traded from Miami to L.A., it was for Shaq, so that's OK. But getting traded to the Washington Wizards for Kwame Brown, did that put a chip on your shoulder?
CB: I got traded for two No. 1 overall picks, so I can live with that. It shows a lot about my value. And with all the players involved in the deadline deal to Dallas shows that I am still a valuable commodity.
JB: Speaking of the trade to Dallas, you were in a sense "escaping" the craziness on and off the court in Washington and when you arrived in town there was 3 feet of snow on the ground. Were you wondering what you had gotten into?
CB: It was just comical. They say it never snows in Dallas. All of the things that never could happen and probably never should happen were happening over the course of the last two months of my career. It was just very ironic to go from (Gilbert Arenas') guns in the locker room to seeing snow in Dallas.
JB: On the road, do you have a favorite arena to play in and who has the best food spread for the players?
CB: I would have to say Milwaukee, just because it's close to home and my loved ones and people I grew up with get to come out. You look out there and see 500 familiar faces in the crowd, people that you are connected to, it hits you that this dream is really real. L.A. is another place because you are liable to see anyone out in the crowd. As far as the food, I'd say Dallas does the best job of catering.
JB: You are in the last year on your contract. With your impending free agency, is this an exciting time for you?
CB: It is very exciting, just having the opportunity to go wherever you please and get to pick where you play. It is a great time for me and my family, so I am looking forward to a great season.
Follow Caron Butler throughout the NBA season on twitter.com/realtuffjuice