- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2008

While a handful of his Washington Wizards teammates laughed, joked and wagered on how high into the Verizon Center stands Gilbert Arenas could punt a basketball after yesterday’s practice, forward Caron Butler sat stone-faced in a courtside seat.

Butler, whose team will try to avoid a season-ending loss in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series tonight in Cleveland, was asked whether the light mood of the Wizards was a good thing.

“A few guys are relaxed. I’m not relaxed,” said Butler, who has averaged 15.5 points in the series. “I’m just sitting on the sideline, taking in the situation, trying to get ready for tomorrow’s challenge.”

Butler has maintained a lower profile in the postseason, choosing to avoid the war of words that Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood have waged with Cavaliers star LeBron James.

He didn’t come right out and criticize his teammates for the trash-talking, but he made it known he’s not a fan.

“You have a lot of characters in this series, but we need to continue to focus on basketball,” Butler said. “My main concern has always been about winning. I strongly feel we let Game 4 slip out of our fingers.”

James has said the Wizards can’t survive Game 5 and extend their season.

“Well, the odds are in our favor,” Butler said. “Because whenever somebody says something about predicting or whatever, it doesn’t come true. So I’ll take that to mean we’re coming back to D.C.”

Butler refused to comment on the extracurricular activity that included Soulja Boy attending Game 3 and fellow rapper Jay-Z writing a song praising James and slamming Stevenson.

Fellow team captain Antawn Jamison considers the banter between his teammates and James disappointing.

“All this talking through the media about this and that is really beneath me, and I’m disappointed my team has bought into it,” he said. “But it’s all about going out and playing the game. So far, for them, it’s about playing the game. So far, they’ve been doing that. They’re up 3-1, and they can say whatever they want. But we need to just play the game.”

Stevenson mum on fine

A day after being fined $25,000 for a “menacing gesture” in Game 4, guard DeShawn Stevenson didn’t speak to reporters about whether he would appeal and forwarded questions to his agent. The agent, Mark Bartelstein, didn’t return a phone message.

The Wizards guard received the fine because of his actions on one of the first plays of the game after LeBron James — with whom Stevenson has had a grudge during the series — got called for goaltending and a foul on a layup by Stevenson.

Stevenson made the foul shot and ran down the court forming his hands to make the Roc-A-Fella Records hand gesture crafted by Jay-Z. He then made a slashing motion across his throat.

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