DALLAS – It’s rare for Rick Carlisle to call plays these days, but he picked a spot on the first possession Wednesday night.
He wanted the ball in the hands of Caron Butler, who responded by knocking down a 17-foot stepback jumper.
“And the rhythm started,” Butler said after a slump-busting 23-point performance in the Mavs’ win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Mavs didn’t need a big game from Butler to beat a Memphis team playing the butt end of a back-to-back. But they will need Butler at their best to have a chance to make a playoff run in the wild West.
Butler has been hot and cold since arriving from Washington in an All-Star break blockbuster trade. He’d been frigid on this homestand, scoring a total of 11 points on 3-of-15 shooting in losses to the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder.
But Butler never worried about whether he’d get back in a groove. He spent the three off days figuring out how he could get going again, spending a lot of time watching tape with Carlisle, who called Butler’s performance against the Grizzlies his best all-around game in a Mavs uniform.
“I knew it was going to happen regardless,” Butler said of getting his shot to fall, which happen on 10 of 17 field goal attempts in Wednesday’s win. “You’re going to make shots. You’ve just got to continue to take them. I’ve put in so much work over the last couple of years in the summer. I never doubt my ability, even when others may. I just stay the course. I knew that shots were going to fall sooner or later. Tonight was the night.”
Butler has had to make a major adjustment with the Mavs, going from one of the Wizards’ top guns (no pun intended) to the third or fourth option in Dallas. He’s still in the process of learning how to best play off of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry.
All the Mavs ask of Butler is that he’s intelligently aggressive.
“Obviously in the playoffs, we need another scorer,” Nowitzki said. “He needs to be aggressive. If he takes 15 or 20 shots every night, I think we’re all happy with it, because he’s not a selfish player. He gets his shots out of movement.
“We need him to be aggressive. I’m going to get my touches, and Jet’s going to do his thing off the bench, but we need him to be efficient and aggressive and look for his stuff. He wants to be a force offensively for us and he understands he needs to be.”
Butler answered the call against Memphis. The question is whether his big night was a blip or a building block.