- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

The 33-21 record of the Wizards with Caron Butler in the starting lineup last season is the confidence-building nourishment of the team that does not resonate beyond Fun Street.

The NBA chattering class crunches the 42-40 record of the Wizards and the six-game, mind-bending exercise with the Cavaliers and equates the team to a hamster on a wheel, consigned to stay in place this season.

That assumption devalues the All-Star performance of Butler in the second half of the season and suggests Gilbert Arenas is tapped out in his evolution.

It also trivializes the offseason work of Ernie Grunfeld, who added two complementary pieces to the roster while calibrating the return of the nearly forgotten Jarvis Hayes.

It amounts to three new additions in the manner of Antonio Daniels, who, like Butler, was significantly more effective once he completed the assimilation process to a new team last season.

The addition by subtraction of Jared Jeffries is certain to result in fewer misses around the basket as well, which is always a good thing.

Grunfeld preached the importance of preserving the team’s continuity the last few months and endeavored not to jar the core group entrusted with eventually leading the Wizards deep into the playoffs.

Butler is a far worthier player than anyone originally imagined, and his acquisition from the Lakers in exchange for Kwame Brown rises to the level of a heist.

Grunfeld is inclined to downplay the characterization, if only because he and Mitch Kupchak are old friends from their days as Olympic teammates in 1976.

Butler plays with a fire in his belly that sometimes prompts the statistical aberration of 20 rebounds in Game 6 against the Cavaliers.

Butler is a small forward, or big guard, but mostly a player with some beast in him.

Being a beast was a subplot to the trade, as Brown vowed to become just that with the Lakers.

Brown talked it, while Butler walked it, in other words, which came as no surprise to those familiar with both players.

Butler has an edge to him that works well on a team that is sometimes perceived as being too nice.

Not that nice guys do not finish first in the NBA, whether the nice guy is Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal.

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