It’s only been one season since Caron Butler left his 14-year NBA career behind for retirement, but the NBA champion hasn’t gone very far. Butler has sharpened his chops as a sideline reporter during TNT’s Player’s Only broadcasts on Tuesday nights during the regular season, and has done work as an analyst for both ESPN and Fox Sports.
As the 2019 NBA playoffs shift into full gear on Saturday, Butler spoke with Dime about which Western Conference playoff team we’re sleeping on, why LeBron James missing the playoffs is a dangerous thing, and how tough the transition from player to sideline reporter has been.
Dime: With Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowtizki’s retirement, along with guys like Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant in recent years, does it feel like your era of basketball is coming to an end? And is that weird?
Caron Butler: It really is. When I go to some of the games, and I see JaVale McGee, who was my rookie, and Giannis (Antetokoumpo), who was my rookie, who is now being viewed as the best all around player in basketball. Looking at McGee, when I’m doing walk-off interviews for Turner, there’s guys saying, “Alright vet!” And I’m like, “Hey, what up?” But (JaVale) is responding. It’s a weird feeling, to see that come to fruition. It really is a transition.
Speaking of Giannis, what was he like as a rookie?
He was special. I didn’t see this. I’d be a liar if I told you I’d seen what I’m seeing now. But what I did know was that he was going to be a guy that was going to be around 10-plus years, easily. He’s a special talent. He can do so many things. He wasn’t a scorer or go-to guy yet, but he possessed the ability to just have it. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like having the feel, having the presence, having the high basketball IQ. He had it.
I’m just happy for him. It’s a kid whose been through a ton of adversity, coming from overseas. Being in Greece, and going through that transition and finding his way here in Milwaukee. People see that he’s cut from a different cloth. He doesn’t buy in to the trendy things or anything like that. He’s all about family, loyalty and working harder than everybody else. I’m a proud vet.