- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2006

When the Wizards acquired Caron Butler from the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, Washington coach Eddie Jordan admittedly did not know what to expect from the forward.

“When you know a player from the outside, you don’t know all of him,” Jordan said. “You don’t know his warts when he gets to your gym. You don’t know the intrinsic value that he may have. You just see him on tape and on scouting reports, and that’s the surface of the guy.”

But now that Butler has been in the Wizards’ practice gym and locker room and on the floor with his new teammates through 36 games, Jordan has a good idea about the player acquired in a deal involving Kwame Brown and later signed to a contract extension worth almost $50 million.

“He’s a tough guy, and he’s very coachable,” Jordan said of his team’s third-leading scorer (16.6). He wants to prove himself, and he’s unselfish, and he’s got some skill out there on the floor.”

The Wizards (17-19) are on a bit of roll right now, having won four straight games for the first time since capturing Games 3 through 6 from Chicago in the first round of last season’s playoffs — and Butler has been a huge part of the upswing.

In the last four games Butler has scored 14, 24, 23 and 23 points, respectively. He said he finally is becoming comfortable at both ends of the floor.

“I think it’s just that my teammates are getting used to me and I’m getting used to them,” Butler said. “Offensively, I’m just trying to stay in a good rhythm and a good flow. My teammates are doing a good job finding me in a rhythm, and I’m just doing what I know how to do.”

Butler also has stepped up his performance on defense. In Monday’s 104-76 rout of the Philadelphia 76ers, he played a big part in shutting down 3-point threat Kyle Korver, who did not score in 28 minutes.

“Caron has been unbelievable. He’s really elevated his game on the offensive and the defensive end,” forward Antawn Jamison said. “He’s been a big piece in this puzzle, and as long as he and guys like Antonio continue to play well and do the things that they are doing, I think we’ll be alright.

Butler began the season as a reserve, averaging 15 points through the first 21 games. However, in 13 games in the starting lineup, he has averaged 19.2 points. Never once did he complain about not starting even though he had been a starter his entire career, which began with the Miami Heat in 2002.

Before the Wizards went on their current winning streak, everyone’s patience was being tested. And while Butler knows the team can’t afford to relax, he thinks it has good reason for optimism.

“When you go through adversity, either you are going to bail out or you come together,” Butler said. “This team came together and got closer. I think that’s why we’re being so successful right now because we’re so tight. I just think the chemistry is coming together slowly but surely. It is coming together more and more.”

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