(Eds: Updates, stands.)By GENARO C. ARMASAP Sports Writer
Caron Butler smiled a lot through his first Milwaukee Bucks practice. He cajoled younger players and may have unnerved his new coach at the foul line.
Larry Drew missed after his veteran forward said something at the last second during a lighthearted moment at practice.
”Yeah,” Butler said with a grin about needling Drew. ”We needed that. Coach lined it up. We bothered him a little bit and he missed it, so that was fun.”
Yup, Butler sure loves being back in his home state.
Butler’s had a busy offseason since he was last on the court. The two-time NBA All-Star was dealt from the Clippers to the Phoenix Suns in a three-team deal in July that also involved the Bucks sending J.J. Redick to Los Angeles.
Six weeks later, the Bucks ended up dealing for Butler directly by sending point guard Ish Smith and center Viacheslav Kravstov to Phoenix. The end result is Butler, entering his 12th year in the league, is back in Wisconsin and just a 30-mile drive from his hometown of Racine.
Butler has been ebullient about being back home in the month since the deal has been announced. He’s also focused on getting ready for camp as the offseason ticked away.
”Talked to Coach Drew a little early about some things, where he wants me and what he expects out of me,” Butler said. ”Just prepare for that instead of just, you know, being home. I toned down and stayed to work as usual.”
The 6-foot-7 Butler figures to start at small forward, especially with Carlos Delfino out indefinitely after suffering a setback involving a right foot injury from last season’s playoffs.
A starter for the Clippers the last two seasons, Butler has averaged 15.5 points in stops that also include Miami, the Los Angeles Lakers, Washington and Dallas. He’s eager to get going in what he described would be an up-tempo system that would spread the ball around.
The Bucks have re-made their roster. Besides Redick, they also jettisoned notable veterans Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis while adding Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo. In total, only four players have returned from last season’s team, and they’re playing with a new coach in Drew.
Which turns Butler, 33, into a sort of ”Welcome to Milwaukee” tour guide, too, to go with his veteran locker-room presence.
”Caron is a guy, when you talk about the leadership, and what he’s capable of, I see him as a … shot-maker, a guy you put out on the floor,” Drew said. ”And I love what he brings to the locker room.”
He might be expected to pass on Drew’s defensive message, too. On the first day of practice, signs simply reading ”43%” were plastered across the Bucks training facility in suburban Milwaukee. No explanation by what it meant on the signs themselves, but the players figured it out pretty quick – it’s the percentage that Drew would like to hold opponents on field-goal attempts.
”You usually see it in the locker room, but just like that as we’re doing this interview now,” said Butler, glancing up at a 43 percent looming over the practice facility, ”that’s just a reinforcement. I love his approach and the way he’s tackling this whole thing.”
Welcome back to Wisconsin, Caron.
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