RACINE — Prior to the Milwaukee Bucks acquiring Caron Butler in a trade with the Phoenix Suns last week, Bucks general manager John Hammond and coach Larry Drew wanted to feel Butler out.
They arranged a conference call with the two-time NBA All-Star from Racine and wanted to know if he had any reservations about playing for the Bucks.
“We were basically telling Caron how bad we wanted him and how it would be a great fit for him,” Hammond said. “At one point in our conversation, Caron stopped me in my tracks and said, ‘You don’t have to convince me. I’m excited about playing for the Bucks. I want to be there.’
“The conversation went on a while and he said, ‘I just have a request, one favor.’ And we said, ‘Sure. What is it?’
“Caron said if we were going to have a presser he would like to have it in Racine. He said, ‘Can we do that?’ And we said, ‘Of course.’
“It just made sense. Racine is home for Caron.”
Thursday afternoon, the Bucks formally held a press conference at Park High School, 1901 12th St., where Butler attended and starred for the Panthers in the late 1990s.
It was held in the fieldhouse before an enthusiastic throng of Park students and teachers, friends and family members of Butler’s, including his wife Andrea and mother Mattie Paden.
For Butler, the occasion was special. Several times during the event, Butler’s emotions spilled over, with him at times crying or choking on his words.
“I just thought the kids needed to see this,” Butler said. “You always need to see positive things.
“I’m been trying to inspire my community for a decade plus now. Everything I do comes from a good place and I do it for all the right reasons. It’s something I take a lot of pride in.
“I was really excited to do this at Park High School; the other spots I would have had this were the Bray Center or Bryant Center, places that I spent a lot of time as a kid.
“But I would have done this at the corner of my old neighborhood if I would have had to, just so I could try and inspire others.
“It meant a lot to do this right here in my hometown.”
It meant a lot to his mother as well. For the last 11 seasons, her son has played for teams in various parts of the country. Butler spent his first two pro seasons in Miami with the Heat. He was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers before playing for Washington, Dallas and the Los Angeles Clippers, who last month traded him to Phoenix.
Butler had barely settled into a home in Scottsdale, Ariz., before the Bucks came calling.
He called his mother about the news.
To Paden, it was Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July all rolled into one.
“When he called me and told me he was being traded to the Bucks, I started screaming and shouting and jumping all around the house like a little kid,” Paden said. “My husband (Melvin) said, ‘What’s going on? What’s happening?’
“I told him, ‘Caron is going to play for the Bucks. My baby is coming home. I said, ‘Thank you God in the name of Jesus’ about 20 times. I was so overwhelmed, so blessed.”
The Bucks feel fortunate to have obtained the 33-year-old Butler.
He started 78 games last season, averaging 10.4 points and 2.9 rebounds while shooting an impressive 39 percent from 3-point range for the Clippers, one of the best teams in the NBA.
During the press conference, Hammond made it clear that Butler would be the Bucks’ starting small forward and would play major minutes.
“We need him, we need him very badly,” Hammond said.
Drew echoed those sentiments, adding he was a major proponent of the Butler trade.
“In all the people I spoke to (before the trade), I got nothing but rave reviews about him,” Drew said of Butler. “When I saw this opportunity, I told John we got do everything we can to make this happen.
“I know our guys are going to reap great, great benefits from having this guy around.
“As a coach, I’m really excited about what Caron brings to our team, not just as a talent but as a person.”