When Da'Sean Butler went down with a brutal ACL tear and MCL bruise in West Virginia's Final Four loss to Duke on April 3, it was clear that his college basketball career was over. What was put in more serious jeopardy was Butler's professional life: What effect would the knee injury, which came so close to draft season, have on his chances of making it to the Association? The simple answer is that it wouldn't be good. An ACL injury is a risk, and NBA teams like to mitigate such risk. Butler wasn't a lock to be in the lottery or even the first round when he was healthy. Without the chance to participate in draft workouts, attend the combine, or play in summer league, the cold calculus of the situation is easy to read.
Here's the thing about Butler, though. He's tough. He gets it. And if there was anyone you'd be willing to bet could come back from an ACL injury and make the NBA, well, my money's on Butler. Why? This:
"There's always maybe one or two days every two weeks where rehab gets so bad that I'll just sit down and think, 'Man, I hate this,' '' Butler said. "But you have to keep your faith and understand that everything happens for a reason. It's going to be painful, but you have to go with it and just roll with the punches. I have my days when I think, 'OK, I don't want to play basketball anymore. It's time to start thinking about coaching so I can get this ice off my knee.' But if I stick it out it's going to make me a tougher person and a player. But I'll look back on it one day and know that if I can take it, I mean anybody can take it."
"By the end of the day, things will change. They always do,'' Butler said. "One day I'm not running, the next day I am. But if things don't work out in the draft, then I'll just find another route.''
"You can't help but look at the reality of the situation, which in my case was that I had worked myself into something and then I lost it,'' Butler said. "But I always look at the positives of everything. No, I'm not going to get guaranteed money right off the bat, but even if I just go and get a one-year contract and work hard and they keep me, then I get guaranteed money the next year. It's all up to me.''
Sure, Da'Sean Butler may not get drafted. He may have to find a different route to the NBA. He may have to play in the D-League, or overseas, or wherever. That he recognizes this is a major step toward making it happen. But if he keeps approaching his injury and its effect on his basketball career with this sort of mature, intelligent, downright forgiving perspective -- when most of us would be cursing the basketball gods and whining that we'd been unjustly robbed -- he'll be just fine. At this point, it's all he can do.