Caron Butler started out his 14-year NBA career with the Miami Heat after being selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. The following season, the Heat drafted the guy they thought would be his backcourt mate for years to come in Dwyane Wade.
That all changed, however, once the Los Angeles Lakers made three-time NBA Finals MVP Shaquille O’Neal available in trade talks after their 2004 NBA Finals loss.
Butler only ended up playing two seasons with the Heat, the second alongside Wade, where he saw the guard out of Marquette become a star before his very eyes. The 2011 NBA champion joined ClutchPoints’ Battle for LA Podcast with Tomer Azarly and Ryan Ward to talk about Wade’s immediate rise in the NBA, among other things.
“It was crazy, Dwyane was so talented,” Caron Butler said, recalling the 2003-04 season. “It was special for the Heat to acquire him and be on the same team because we knew he was special immediately when he came in. You’ve seen the story of Michael Jordan and how when Jordan came in, he was itching and fighting to be the best on the team immediately and he said he attacked the best player on the team. It was no different with Dwyane Wade.
“Once he came onto the scene, people just knew that he was ‘it.’ Whatever ‘it’ is, he had ‘it.’ He came and he dominated and I felt like as good as he was at the collegiate level, the space of the NBA opened up and it was really fit for his game.”
Coming into the NBA, Butler was already familiar with Wade. A native of Racine, Wisconsin, Butler often faced Wade in AAU basketball.
“I played Dwyane so much in the AAU circuit. Him being from Chicago, me being from Racine, pretty much every tournament, the Illinois Warriors was always there. Him, Eddy Curry, Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson, all those guys. This is the cream of the crop. The top five or six players in the country right there in that market. We was just always playing against other.”
Wade averaged 16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.4 steals for the Heat in his rookie season. His biggest run of the regular season came during a six-game streak in December in which he averaged 25.2 points and 5.0 assists on 54.7 percent shooting.
According to Butler, then-head coach Stan Van Gundy made the midseason decision to get Wade the ball more and make him the primary offensive weapon.
“I’ll never forget, they had him coming off stagger picks, wheel action, slice cuts and all that shit. And all of a sudden, Stan Van Gundy was like, ‘You know what, just put the ball in his hands, let’s see what he looks like in the pick-and-roll,’ and the rest was history.
“That’s when Dwyane Wade became pretty much ‘Flash,’ a superstar in this league, because I’ve never seen anybody in the pick-and-roll that just couldn’t be stopped,” Butler added. “Like you couldn’t guard him in the pick-and-roll situation.
“If the big came up, he attacked the big. If a big showed, he split the defense. If you sent a small, he managed to get right to his spot and shoot over the small and they wasn’t able to stop him because he had momentum, he had the basketball already and he was going downhill. It was just something to watch putting him in the pick-and-roll setting. And that immediately became our offense. It was a 1-4 flat, and the 5 [center], the 4 [power forward], the 3 [small forward], or sometimes even the 2 [shooting guard] would come up to set a pick and let Dwyane go to work. He was such a leader early where he was distributing the basketball as well.”
Wade was the Heat’s third-leading scorer in the regular season just behind veterans Eddie Jones (17.3) and Lamar Odom (17.1). Wade did, however, lead the Heat in scoring in the postseason, averaging 18.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.6 assists on 45.5 percent shooting. He led Miami to a 42-40 record, defeating the New Orleans Hornets in seven games before falling to the Indiana Pacers in six games.
In Wade’s sophomore season, the Heat traded away Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, and Brian Grant to the Lakers in exchange for Shaq, who helped Wade to the franchise’s first NBA championship in 2006.
You can listen to the full podcast on:
Apple: Battle for LA Podcast
Spotify: Battle for LA Podcast