Butler on Guard at a New Position

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Byline: John N. Mitchell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

As Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan got his hair cut in the players' lounge following yesterday's practice at Verizon Center, he and Caron Butler discussed all things not basketball.

It was a welcome break for Butler, who has spent the last week taking a crash course on a new position.

An All-Star at small forward last season, Butler has been playing extensive minutes at shooting guard at both ends of the court - a role not broached during training camp or the preseason.

"We're putting a lot on his plate," a freshly cropped Jordan said. "It's something that we have to do in order to keep the best players on the floor. Now, if we were 10 games above .500 maybe I would keep him at forward and play the young guys. But we don't have that luxury."

The Wizards' slow start, which at 0-5 tied a franchise record, led to Butler's switch. So before the Wizards' ended their skid last weekend with a victory at Atlanta, Jordan decided he would tighten his rotation to eight players - meaning hardly any time for rookies Nick Young or Dominic McGuire - and that he would shift Butler to shooting guard for long stretches.

The change has been productive for Washington, which will try to win its third straight game tonight at Minnesota (1-5).

Butler plays guard mostly when the Wizards use a zone defense or switch to a bigger lineup to compensate for the loss of veteran Calvin Booth this summer and Etan Thomas for likely the entire season following heart surgery.

The Wizards switched in and out of zone against Atlanta, holding the Hawks to just 39 percent shooting, including 15 percent (3-for-20) from 3-point range.

The momentum carried over during the Wizards' first home win of the season Wednesday, a 103-90 victory over Indiana. The Wizards' defense again was stingy, limiting the Pacers to 39 percent shooting.

Jordan said the switch should be a struggle for Butler, but his numbers in those games show otherwise. Butler had a team-high 24 points, eight assists and six rebounds against Atlanta and followed with 25 points, seven rebounds, a game-high four steals and three assists against Indiana. …