Caron Butler nearly had a second professional act in Washington, Trevor Ariza the same in Los Angeles.
According to David Aldridge, the Wizards and Clippers had a deal in place before Thursday's NBA trade deadline that would have shipped Butler, who spent 3 1/2 seasons with the Wizards, in exchange for fellow small forward Ariza.
Huh. Before examining further, here is what Aldridge wrote in his Monday post on NBA.com:
"The Clips stood pat, but not by their basketball people's choice. L.A. and Washington had a done deal Wednesday night that would have sent forward Trevor Ariza to the Clippers in exchange for Caron Butler, giving L.A. a long, defensive-oriented body to throw at the likes of Kevin Durant in the playoffs. (Butler, who still has an offseason home in the D.C. area, and who was loved by the locals, didn't have a problem returning to a non-Arenas Wizards locker room. He'd have been welcomed back as a much-needed offensive option, according to sources.)
"But sources indicated that Clippers owner Donald Sterling nixed the deal Thursday morning, not wanting to gamble on the team's chemistry being affected in any way down the stretch. My interpretation: we don't want to do anything that could, in any way, be held against us by assistant general manager Chris Paul this summer if we don't get far in the postseason."
We'll leave the Donald Sterling apparent intrusion alone for those out West to discuss. Now, it seemed logical that the Wizards would look to move Ariza, a former Los Angeles Laker, considering:
*According to HoopsHype.com, the 27-year-old is scheduled to make $7.22 million next season, third highest among all current Wizards. That salary does not jive with his 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds level production, though Ariza also generates a team-high 1.5 steals and is arguably Washington's top defender. He also has been unable to reenter the starting lineup because of Martell Webster's shooting.
*The Wizards have a glut of small forward options, including Chris Singleton, who does not offer the same agility as Ariza but brings also brings a defensive element to the game.
*Webster - the current starting small forward, locker room dynamo and upcoming free agent - has played his way into a better contract situation. However, depending on where the numbers go, Washington could be priced out considering Ariza and others are on the books for next year.
Essentially none of these problems would have been solved by acquiring Butler, who is nearly five years older than Ariza and makes slightly more money. According to HoopsHype, Butler will earn $8 million next season.
In 55 games this season - all as a starter - Butler is averaging 10.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 24 minutes per game with a 12.4 PER (Ariza is 13.6). Acquired by Washington in perhaps President Ernie Grunfeld's best trade - essentially for Kwame Brown - the popular Butler teamed up with Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison before being shipped to Dallas midway through the 2009-10 season. Though injuries curtailed his game-time with the Mavericks, Butler has remained largely healthy in his two seasons with the Clippers.
Would he have been welcomed by the Wizards' fan base? Absolutely. Would Butler's addition have made the Wizards a better team? Eh, not sure about that, at least not this season if at all. Ariza can frustrate observers with his erratic play, but he's formed a decent offense-defense combo with Webster while generating points on his own including 16 and 18 respectively in weekend wins over Denver and Houston.
The versatile 6-foot-8 forward is also not afraid to guard scoring stars like James Harden and Carmelo Anthony (which is why the Clippers front office was said to be intrigued). Butler would go from starter to reserve which always adds a tricky dynamic.
Perhaps the best case for making the deal comes when looking ahead to 2013-14. Should Webster bolt in free agency, the Wizards would still have Butler, a 39 percent 3-point shooter this season, to help spread the floor. They would also have an entire starting frontcourt of 30-somethings, a plodding scenario that could literally slow down the dynamic guard tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Anyway, that trade window has closed, at least for this season. Rumor mill, until we meet again...