As our summer mainstay, Aaron's writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. Intent is to get you talking, thinking, and appreciating the myriad of wonderful folks who play in our favorite sports league. Except for this post. Oh lord. Let's cover Caron Butler, Mike Bibby, and Raja Bell.
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Follow Caron Butler on twitter at @realtuffjuice.
Caron Butler is one of those players who have an interesting story, but who I have a lot of trouble liking in spite of that. I think it's mostly the Cavs/Wizards thing -- I have trouble liking most members of that team other than Gilbert Arenas, and by extension, I'm not Butler's biggest fan. Actually, come to think of it, you probably couldn't produce a player that plays for teams I dislike as frequently and regularly as Caron Butler if you tried -- drafted by the disliked-even-then Heat, traded to the Kobe Lakers, traded to the Cavs rivalry Wizards, traded to the Spurs rivalry Mavericks, then finally stopping at the Los Angeles Clippers to flop and snipe his way into our hearts with quasi-dirty play and long two-point shots. (Mostly kidding. Sort of.) It's kind of a pity, because his overall game is interesting. He's a positive rebounder at his position, a halfway decent passer, a very good three point shooter, and an excellent defender.
Which is all very good to have, obviously. When you nitpick his game, there are only a handful of major flaws. The first -- and this is major -- is that he's extremely bad at drawing contact. While Butler's nickname is "Tuff Juice", that doesn't totally jive with reality -- he does shy away from contact to some extent, and with the notable exception of 2009, Butler has never been all that far above the NBA's starting SG average for free throws per game. He's more of a jump shooter than anything else, which is fine, but somewhat discouraging for a guy who takes a few too many outside jumpers. Not to say three point shots, mind you, but the 16-23 range I was yesterday praising Jenkins for. He was able to serve as a solid pivot point in the long-two in Carlisle's offensive schemes in Dallas due to a two-year hot streak from that range, but he's not naturally a fantastic shooter from that distance, even though his shot selection would make you think so.
His lowered minutes last season depressed his total, but in an average season, Butler shoots 6-7 shots per game from the 16-23 foot range, making an average of around 42% of them. That's easily a league-crushing number taken while shooting well below average, and it's sort of inexcusable -- Butler is one of the most effective at-rim scorers in the league, and when he steps back, he's a solid and dependable three-point bomber. The other issue -- and this is nothing to fault him for, but must be said -- is his health. Butler has never in his 10-year career played a full 82 game season. This leads to him being somewhat overrated. His game is multifaceted, and in many ways, excellent. He can be a starter on a contending team. But the idea that Butler is actually going to be there for the entire long haul is somewhat misguided, because that simply doesn't happen. That said, his injury history isn't his fault per se. It's just some bad luck.
Butler's life had quite a lot of that -- Butler grew up in an extremely tough neighborhood, and was actually dealing drugs at the age of 11. He was arrested -- by his own report -- 15 times by the age of 15 and had something of a come-to-Jesus moment while in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison. He cleaned up his act, ended up at the University of Connecticut under Jim Calhoun, and made it to the NBA. Since then, he's been squeaky-clean since. Even though I don't like him much, you have to have the utmost respect someone who cleans up his act to the extent Butler has. Born into a bad situation, Butler is a wonderful story of a man who didn't accept his fate as a jailed junkie-feeder and turned his talents into a patently solid career. Hell, even has a ring. And if nothing else, he's the best straw-chewer in the NBA. That's gotta be worth something, right? And as a last triumphant note, after working at multiple Burger Kings in his youth, one of Butler's most recent purchases was buying six Burger King franchises across the U.S. in an attempt to make sure he doesn't simply stop earning money when he leaves the NBA. Butler's a smart guy, and nothing if not a poster boy for overcoming adversity.
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Follow Mike Bibby on twitter and I'll ban your IP.
I get all the anger management stuff. Obviously don't keep it inside, but really examine your prejudices before you just outright yell about hating someone. But this one isn't one that I can even pretend to be positive about. Because I hate Mike Bibby. Okay? I seriously, earnestly, unbelievably hate him. The weird thing is I've never totally figured out why. I hated him since well before I started watching The Basketball Jones, too -- when I realized that Skeets hated him too (and make no mistake, Skeets hates him), I realized that the visceral feeling of distaste and irritation I got when watching him play basketball wasn't something I felt in isolation. The funniest part about it is that I should probably like him -- he actually went to a high school in my old school district, and not a school my high school considered a rival. He basically grew up in a similar area to me, and we might've actually shared a few teachers -- I know there's been some movement between Shadow Mountain and Horizon over the years. Normally that would be a cool connection worthy of respect and interest.
But... I mean... Christ almighty, people, it's Mike Bibby! This is the guy who has more poorly thought out tattoos per square inch than every non-recovering-heroin-addict in the NBA. It's the guy who actively tried to get taken lower in the draft because he didn't want to have to live in Vancouver (a wonderful, wonderful city). His game is pretty lazy -- lazy defense, lazy offense, lazy conditioning. Bibby is the "proud" owner of one of the lowest playoff PERs in the history of the league, clocking in with an inconceivable PER of 3.6 in the 2011 playoffs. Seriously, one of the lowest. Ever. Virtually all his tattoos are unbelievably awful -- from the tattoo of a poorly drawn basketball on his leg to the tattooed "WWJD" bracelet on his wrist, his tattoos are basically hand picked to make him look like an idiot. No organization, no grand theme, just a lot of random crap he had emblazoned on his body for a variety of disconnected reasons. And this is coming from someone who actually likes ink a lot, as long as it's well thought out. Lordy. I realize this all seems a little arbitrary. You know what I say to that?
DAMN RIGHT IT IS! I don't really have any fantastic, world-changing reasons to hate Mike Bibby. I don't like how he looks, I don't like how he plays, and I don't think he is (or realistically ever has been) a particularly great basketball player. Overrated, underrated, I don't really care. I detest watching Bibby play basketball, and if a team I enjoy ever picked him up, I'd probably sob for days on end. I was honestly hoping that my random number generator would conveniently misplace Bibby and leave him out, so that my semi-incoherent and admittedly arbitrary hatred for Mike Bibby would be forever hidden to close friends and colleagues. But alas, it was not to be. Random numbers let me down again, and now everyone reading knows who my least favorite player of all-time is. Congratulations, I suppose.
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Follow Raja Bell on twitter secondhand by following Jazz fans and watching them flip out.
A few interesting tidbits about Raja Bell. He was born in the Virgin Islands, which makes him the 2nd best player from the Virgin Islands in the history of the NBA. (Out of... three.) He was never drafted, and actually never played for the team that initially "drafted" him by signing him after the draft, the San Antonio Spurs. He practiced with them for a while, got waived, and was signed to an actual fully guaranteed contract by the Philadelphia 76ers early in the 2000s. He steadily improved, eventually becoming a far more useful player. Back in his heyday, he was one of the more impressive roleplayers in the league -- a solid perimeter defender, a decent three point bomber, and one of the NBA's best at simply never turning the ball over. So, basically, a poor man's Bruce Bowen. (Or a Sarver-man's Bruce Bowen, more like.) At his peak... which was a good four or five years ago, unfortunately. Bell hasn't been at peak shape (or anywhere close) in years.
Unfortunately for the teams that sign him, this hasn't at all deterred him from demanding heavy minutes and making unholy hell rain down from the heavens when he doesn't get his way. See this lovely story, where our hero quite literally exploded in a vicious tirade against Coach Tyrone Corbin for not bringing Bell back early from injury and playing him over Utah's young guns in the playoffs. I got on Corbin's back earlier today for not playing Alec Burks (happy birthday, Alec!) over Raja. Want yet another reason why? In 2011, he put up the least efficient heavy-minutes season in the history of the Utah Jazz. No, not "among the" least efficient -- the single least efficient season. Mark Eaton, eat your heart out. This isn't to say Raja is a terrible person. I don't know much about him at all, and honestly have no idea. He seems like kind of a jerk from all the interactions he's had that have been publicized (such as leaving the Jazz at the alter to go to the Suns, openly chewing out coaches an teammates alike, etc) but it's possible he's a really nice guy when you get beneath the shell.
... maybe not, though. Guy really does seem like sort of a jerk. Go figure.
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At the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next batch. Whoever gets the most right will get a shout out at the end of the next post. Tweet me your answers at @docrostov, or post them in the comments. This time, two of our commenters on the previous post got 1/3. Nobody got any more, though, which was sad.
- I have a feeling Player #43 will be better for the Hawks than he has been for his last two teams.
- Player #44 is the NBA's own personal Batman. Until he gets traded.
- The Trailblazers are trying out a new hit game show, "The [Player #45] Is Right."
See you next week. Don't forget your towel.