Butler: Kobe made me better

DALLAS -- One season as Kobe Bryant's teammate helped make Caron Butler an All-Star.

Butler didn't become an All-Star until a couple of seasons after he left LA, but he firmly believes that the lessons he learned from Kobe played a major role in his development.

"That was the best thing that ever could have happened for me personally for my career," said Butler, who will match up against Kobe tonight. "To play alongside a guy like that, see his preparation and what it takes to get to that level, that’s why I was able to be so good in Washington. I took everything I learned from him, being under his wing, and took that to Washington and it made me very successful."

Butler, who still talks to Kobe every week or two, said he learned what work ethic was all about that season. He saw how Kobe got to the gym early in the morning and stayed late, how he studied film and prepared for opponents, how he trained during the offseason and used it as the pattern for his schedule.

Butler, known for being a tough dude, also witnessed Kobe's killer instinct on a regular basis. And Butler knows he'll see it again tonight, when their friendship will be put aside for a couple of hours at the AAC.

"He’s going to bring it," Butler said. "And then he’ll hug me afterwards. That’s how he is."

That's how Butler has become, following Kobe's lead.