- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2006

For Caron Butler, less means more.

The Washington Wizards forward hired a personal chef over the summer — commonplace in today’s NBA. He worked out repeatedly and estimates he is 15 to 20 pounds lighter than last season. As a result, Butler is having the best season of his career.

While the Wizards struggle to escape a slump that includes four straight losses and seven in eight games, Butler is averaging career highs in minutes per game (39.2), rebounds, (8.2) assists (2.8) and steals (1.8).

“It was just about cutting out the McDonald’s, stuff like that, and eating in moderation,” said Butler, who leads the Wizards in rebounding and double-doubles. “I used to go to McDonald’s and get a [value meal] with two apple pies and a large soda. Now I’m eating some things and I don’t even know their names.”

Healthy eating has led to better results on the court. Butler is feasting on opposing players, and his teammates are taking notice.

“The thing that’s really sticking out is how he’s rebounding the ball — that’s really helped us out a lot,” captain Antawn Jamison said. “Defensively, he’s been that solid rock for us. … That’s one thing about him; you know what you’re getting — consistency throughout the year. I think it’s just time for the rest of us to follow suit and start playing the way that we are capable of playing and start getting things on the right track.”

Butler said yesterday’s practice at Verizon Center, in preparation for tonight’s home game with Atlanta, was one of the most intense of the season — a good thing considering how poorly the Wizards have played, particularly on offense.

The Wizards (4-9) are averaging 112 points at home after a 115-111 loss to Detroit on Saturday. But their recent struggles have been mostly marred by poor offensive performances, particularly on the road, and just 15 points in the first quarter against Memphis and Dallas.

The Wizards average 87.4 points on the road, where they are 0-7. They scored just 28 points in the first half of a 86-82 loss at Houston. A night later, the Wizards were tied with Dallas at halftime but scored just 29 more points in a 107-80 loss, their worst of the season.

“I remember looking at the stats sheet in each one of those games and the thing that sticks out the most in my mind is that we were shooting around 20 percent at some particular point in the game,” Jamison said. “You know that’s not us.”

Butler recalled last season, when the Wizards started 13-19 but won 29 of the next 50 to reach the playoffs for the second straight season. That gives him faith things will get better this year, too.

“No one is panicking around here, not at all,” Butler said. “We know that we can turn it around at any given time. There’s no need to panic early on. We learned that from what we went through last year. The important thing is to continue to execute our offense, don’t rush shots and keep doing the good things we’ve been doing. We’ll come around.”

Meanwhile, forward Darius Songaila worked out yesterday for the first time since undergoing back surgery at the start of the season. Songaila walked on a treadmill and did some exercises aimed at strengthening his core.