Let’s for one second forget that the Mavs were on the verge of true contention with Dirk Nowitzki glowing after every jumper and Caron Butler settling into a rotation he could finally call his home. Let’s momentarily misplace the fact that without Butler, Dallas is hurting for complementary scoring, and that Jason Terry is no longer reliable enough to carry that burden on his own. Let’s just wipe clear the notion that without Butler performing at a high level, another year of Dirk Nowitzki’s prime could end in a premature playoff exit.
All of that matters, I’m sure, but frankly none of it should be relevant in any way that impacts Butler’s decision-making. It’s a damn shame that Caron couldn’t be a part of some magical Maverick effort that toppled the Lakers and soared past the Spurs, but does that mean he should attempt a comeback this season when doing so would scrape the bottom of his rehabilitation projections? Why try to rush back into things at the four-month mark when recovery from this kind of injury could take six months and then some? Hasn’t Butler seen what happened to Brandon Roy? To Josh Howard? To all of those who haven’t respected the course of nature and medicine?
The notion that Butler could — or worse, should — return to the team for a playoff push is absurd. It would be a detriment to the team, and potentially a huge detriment to Butler’s health. The fact that he wants to play for the Mavs is admirable, but foolishly so. If it’s merely a mechanism to facilitate Butler’s rehab, then I wouldn’t dare take it away. But if he or the Mavs are seriously considering a pre-playoff or mid-playoff return a real possibility, I fear for the repercussions for both parties. Dallas has done a great job this season of refusing to wait on anyone. They didn’t bide their time and wait for some disaster to befell the Lakers; they grabbed the conference by the throat and played top-notch defense (before their recent drop-off, at least). When Rodrigue Beaubois’ return kept getting pushed back, the Mavs made it work offensively, and turned Beaubois into a welcome addition rather than a bare necessity.
If Caron’s return is touted as a possibility, it would only be deluding this team — from players to management to ownership — into thinking they may eventually have an asset at their disposal that they certainly do not. Even if Butler could return this season, he’d be limited. Even if you think that’s better than nothing, it’s not. When healthy, Butler was a genuine asset to this team, and he worked terribly hard (both in terms of his conditioning/physique and his understanding of the offensive and defensive systems) to get to that point. But without the same ability to move both laterally and toward the basket, Butler isn’t worth all that much. He’d likely be frustrated, as any capable player would be when reduced to a spot-up shooter. The Caron Butler Mavs fans had slowly grown to appreciate over the course of this season is no more — until after his full recovery, anyway — and even the most diligent rehab work won’t change that.
Wade through trade rumors if you must, but this team has to get better, and they’ll have to do so without even whispering Caron’s name.