- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday afternoon was like most for Rasual Butler. After post-practice shooting contests were over — he took care of Garrett Temple and John Wall earlier — Butler stayed on the Wizards’ practice floor.

He stood at the free-throw line, just him, a ball and a manager left in the Wizards’ practice gym a few hundred feet from the Verizon Center’s main floor. This is how nights like Wednesday can happen. Proficient nights from role players is also part of the reason why the Wizards have managed to go 6-2 without Bradley Beal.

Butler scored 18 points off the bench in Wednesday’s victory over the Detroit Pistons and is redefining fluctuating minutes early this season.

He played 10 minutes in the opener, then sat on the bench for four consecutive games while Temple remained hot and Glen Rice Jr. was provided a brief opportunity to play. Butler emerged from the cobwebs when the Wizards were blown out in Toronto Nov. 7. He played 15 minutes that night.

Butler played 18 minutes the next night and was effective. He scored nine points, had three rebounds and two assists against the Indiana Pacers. Wednesday, he played a season-high 27 minutes, which included a crucial strip of Pistons post man and former Hoya Greg Monroe.

“He can spread the floor; he can make shots,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “That’s what he did [Wednesday]. I thought he was outstanding. He did a little bit of everything.”

Butler was the last player to make the team out of training camp. He’s settled into an inconsistent NBA life by making his time the same. Butler has played for seven different teams since being drafted in the second round out of La Salle University in 2002.

Before his crisp night against the Pistons, Butler explained how he handles the unpredictability of his role.

“I pretty much stick with the same routine,” Butler said. “I’ve been this way for a long time now. I get my work in. Mentally, it makes me comfortable just to know I’ve been getting my work in. Extra work is really key and important for me. Just to stay sharp because you don’t know if you’re going to play a lot, play a little. When your number’s called, that’s the best way to be prepared. To get your work in before and after practice.”

During the opening two-plus weeks, the Wizards have received a bump from their role players. Butler’s 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting Wednesday was a boost. Temple scored a career high in points earlier in the season. Power forward Kris Humphries’ hand has healed, allowing him to provide oomph off the bench. In his last three games, Humphries is averaging 10 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

Butler’s Wizards debut was ignominious. He set up to take a charge from Miami forward James Ennis during a fastbreak. Instead, Ennis went over and through for a dunk and a foul. One game into his time with a new team, Butler was on the receiving end and all over highlight shows. He takes it in stride.

“It happens,” Butler said. “It’s inevitable that it will happen to you if you are playing the game the right way on the defensive end. You’re trying to make winning basketball plays. You’re trying to block shots. You try to take charges, at some point in time in your career it happens.

“You get dunked on and the other side of the card is you dunk on people sometimes. It’s a part of the game. At the end of the day, it’s a two-point play. Most you can get is three if you get an and-one.”

Supplemented by the role players’ performances, the Wizards have moved to 6-2 for the first time since the 1975-76 season. Their two losses have come against the only two teams they have played which have winning records, Miami and the Toronto Raptors.

During Detroit’s visit, Pistons assistant coach Brendan Malone pulled Wizards center Marcin Gortat aside. Gortat played for Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy from 2007-10 in Orlando. Malone was an assistant in Orlando during that time.

“He asked me, ‘Do you think you guys are the best in the East?’” Gortat said. “It’s too early to say. We’re getting there. We slowly working to become the best team.

“If we can continue to have that spark off the bench, I mean, jeez, we’re going to be really good.”

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