Is Caron Butler giving Mavs what they need?

NEW ORLEANS -- Dallas Mavericks small forward Caron Butler is shooting 38.3 percent from the floor in seven games played this season. Prior to his return in Wednesday night's 99-97 loss to the New Orleans Hornets, in which he had five points and no rebounds in 22 minutes, coach Rick Carlisle was asked if he knows what he's got with Butler from game to game.

Carlisle answered, "I think so."

"We’re asking all our guys to be consistent, to accept the role that we need them to accept to help our team play its best," Carlisle said. "Caron’s a scorer. He’s a physical guy that can have a physical presence around the basket with his matchup. And when we do play zone we need him to cover his area and be physical around the basket because a lot of times he’s going to be blocking out a bigger guy."

It is early in the season and Butler did miss three games with back spasms, but his numbers across the board have started at the low end. He's averaging 13.3 points on 38.3 percent shooting, and 4.3 rebounds. His free-throw percentage has sunk to 65.4 percent and he's attempting just 3.7 free throws a game.

In his return Wednesday, Butler played the entire first quarter. He missed his first four shots, all jumpers, and made just 2-of-6 shots in the quarter. He got to the free throw line on a drive and made 1 of 2. Carlisle then played Butler less than 11 minutes in the final three quarters.

Butler spent a chunk of season working through a conditioning program designed for him to become lighter and more capable of driving to the basket more often than he did last season when he relied heavily on his mid-range jumper. Throughout Josh Howard's time in Dallas, they often had similar issues with Howard preferring to shoot jumpers instead of attacking the rim.

"He’s done more of it for sure. We do need it, we need it at the right times, and I think he’s done a good job of being aggressive when the openings are there," Carlisle said. "He worked a lot on flexibility, stride length, loss of weight so he’s quicker, and so it’s all about reading situations and taking advantage of opportunities. What we’re not asking him to do is go out there and just try to create every time he gets the ball. That’s not going to be his game, that’s not going to be our game. But, off of our movement, there are opportunities to attack pockets of space, gaps, etc. When he does that he’s one of the guys that can get to the line for us."

Butler, who equated his sporadic playing time in the final three quarters Wednesday with his second-half benching in Game 3 of last season's playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, said he has to maintain his aggressiveness.

"I got to run and get out and try to make plays," Butler said. "Maintain staying aggressive and doing things like that."