Caron Butler’s childhood dream: Drug-dealing kingpin, not NBA player

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Challenge: Find someone who grew up playing basketball and didn’t – for at least a moment – dream of playing in the NBA.

Even I – short, slow and uncoordinated – fantasized about a pro career while shooting on a driveway hoop. Practically every basketball-playing kid does – especially someone who actually has the talent to reach the league.

But not Caron Butler.

Butler grew up dealing drugs in Racine, Wisconsin. Despite his tall frame and natural ability, he never even imagined basketball as a career option.

“It was just pastime,” Butler said. “The real goal was being out there on the streets and trying to make ends meet and make money.”

Butler did that.

He began shooting guns at 9, dealing drugs at 11, bragging about his $10,000 stash and nice clothes at 13.

Butler looked up to drug dealers like Jimmy “Junebug” Carter, whom described himself as “The Santa Claus of the ghetto.” As Butler tells it, Junebug won a BMW in a dice game, shut down a local Foot Locker by buying all the merchandise and kept 10s of thousands of dollars in various houses around the city.

“Be like Mike? Everybody I knew wanted to be like Junebug,” Butler wrote in his autobiography, “Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA.”

The book details Butler’s rough upbringing, including his 11 months in the Ethan Allen School for Boys after being convicted for having a gun and cocaine in his high school locker at age 15. There are stories of shootouts (both with Butler shooting and being shot at), car chases and friends’ deaths.

Interestingly, only a single chapter is devoted to his NBA years – subsections on his time with the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Wizards, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings whizzing by. The book spends more time on Butler’s family members – not his relationships with them, but their own stories.

Butler wants readers to know where he came from.

He nearly didn’t have an opportunity to tell his story. After he was released from Ethan Allen and quit dealing, Butler was home when police searched his place and found crack in the garage. Butler said it didn’t belong him, but he also knew people hid things in the garage.

“That’s just what it was,” Butler said. “In the neighborhood, it was a lot of places where people stored stuff and hid items and things.

“You may walk down the street and see a Dorito bag that’s balled up. But if you pick it up, there may be something in it. Or you may walk down the alley and see different garages and doors open and stuff, and you may stumble upon a lot of things that you wasn’t supposed to stumble upon. So, I wasn’t searching for things. But I was aware of my surroundings.”

A new charge could’ve sent Butler to prison long enough to end his budding basketball career. But an officer on the scene, Rick Geller, believed the drugs weren’t Butler’s and let him go. Apparently, only later did Geller learn of Butler’s ability on the hardwood.

Butler says many people helped him over the years, some out of genuine compassion and others just to latch onto his basketball talent. And he’s grateful for both groups. Where would he be without the basketball-minded, with only the authentic do-gooders?

“Worst-case scenario, I probably wouldn’t be here on earth,” Butler said. “Best-case scenario, I’d probably be incarcerated.”

Butler never had the luxury of choosing the source of his support. When he needed $5,500 to pay for prep school in Maine, he got it from a drug-dealing friend. They remain close. But when Butler reached the NBA, he wrote a check to three other Racine drug-dealers who helped him in bleaker times and broke ties.

How did he know whom to keep in his life and whom to leave behind? After all, the dealer he’s still friends with received a 10-year sentence after loaning Butler the tuition money.

“Certain people had reached out and extended themselves for all the right reasons,” Butler said. “And certain people had reached out an extended themselves for all the wrong reasons and wasn’t trying to better themself in life.

“I had to facilitate myself through those situations, and it was tough. There’s no manual for that stuff.”

No, there’s not. But Butler’s book at least offers some insight into his situation – one with elements shared by many.

For Butler, carrying a gun seemed normal. Getting arrested seemed normal. Dealing drugs seemed normal.

In his story, criminals aren’t necessarily the bad guys. They’re also family and friends.

So, as Butler has gone through a successful 14-year NBA career he never imagined, he’s not hiding his past. Active in the community, he uses his experiences to help young people coming up who see drug-dealing as their best option.

“When you come from that environment, when you come from that lifestyle, the only thing they know is what they know. If it happens to be that trade, it’s unfortunate,” Butler said. “But there’s some people out there that have good hearts and good intentions that’s trying to better their self and just going about it a little bit in the wrong way. They just need some direction.

“Look what happened in my life with some direction.”

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

NBA playoff schedule 2020
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And there were four.

The NBA is down to the conference finals — and the bubble has provided us with upsets galore. There are some unexpected teams in the NBA’s Final Four, but of course LeBron James is still there. The Lakers are the heavy favorites at this point.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except in the East, when ESPN wants a break not to clash with the NFL, and to let the West catch up. The fast pace of games will return with the NBA Finals.
Families for the players, and with the final four now the coaches, are in the bubble.
• The NBA Finals will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 30, if Miami closes the Easter Conference Finals out in six games. If the series goes seven games the Finals will start on Friday, Oct. 2.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114, OT
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101
Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106
Game 4: Heat 112, Celtics 109
Game 5: Celtics 121, Heat 108 (Miami leads series 3-2)
Game 6: Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 7: Sept. 30, 8:30 p.n. (ESPN)*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103
Game 3: Nuggets 114, Lakers 106
Game 4: Lakers 114, Nuggets 108
Game 5: Lakers 117, Nuggets 107 (Lakers win series 4-1)

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

LeBon James takes over, leads Lakers to NBA Finals with win

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The Denver Nuggets had come back from 3-1 down twice in these playoffs.

The Denver Nuggets had never run into LeBron James.

LeBron dominated this close-out game. He scored 16 points in the fourth quarter. He put up a triple-double of 38 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists. Defensively he shut down Jamal Murray (who was slowed due to a bone bruise on his foot) and made smart plays.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed a guy take over a game the way he did in the fourth quarter tonight, in person,” Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel said of LeBron.

LeBron did what the Jazz and Clippers had failed to do — he and the Los Angeles Lakers closed out the Nuggets in five games with a 117-107 win.

“He’s had a chip on his shoulder all year long,” Vogel said about LeBron. “Everybody has doubters. To be in the Eastern Conference and get there as much as he had and to come over to the Western Conference, it’s an enormous accomplishment to [reach the Finals] with a third team.”

The Lakers advance to the NBA Finals, which will begin Wednesday (if Miami closes the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday) or Friday (if there is a Game 7 in the East).

LeBron James made history with the win, becoming the third player in NBA history to make it to 10 NBA Finals, joining Sam Jones (11) and Bill Russell (12) of the 1950s-60s Boston Celtics.

The Lakers pulled ahead in the first half of Game 5 because of Nikola Jokic‘s foul trouble — he played just eight minutes in the first half after picking up three quick ones. The Nuggets were +3 in those eight minutes and -13 in the other minutes of the first half, which had Dever down 10 at the break.

The Nuggets fought back in the third quarter, in part thanks to a monster game from Jeremi Grant who had 20 points on the night (tied with Jokic for a team high). Despite a hobbling Murray, the Nuggets did what they had done all playoffs long and refused to fold.

“What more could you ask from a group?” Denver coach Michael Malone said after the loss. “What more commitment, sacrifice, just everything in the last 82 days that our team has gone through. The history that we’ve made. The adversity that we faced and never ran from, embraced it… I couldn’t be more proud.”

Anthony Davis had 27 points for L.A. The Lakers also had role players stepping up. Alex Caruso had 11 points and was 5-of-7 from the floor. Danny Green also scored 11.

However, in the end, it was LeBron James looking like the best player on the planet.

Now he is headed to the Finals with the chance to make history and win a title with three different teams.

 

Lakers’ Anthony Davis ‘good to go’ for Game 5 despite sprained ankle

Anthony Davis
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This was expected, but when the Lakers officially listed Anthony Davis as questionable for Game 5 with a sprained ankle, it raised a few eyebrows.

Davis will play in Game 5 Saturday night, coach Frank Vogel said pregame.

Anthony Davis sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter of Game 4, and while he stayed in the game there were questions about how it would respond the next day.

The Lakers are up 3-1 on a Denver team they know will not be easy to close out.

To do that, Los Angeles needs Davis: When AD has been on the court in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers have outscored the Nuggets by 9.4 points per 100 possessions, but when he sits, the Lakers are -21.3 (stats via NBA.com).

The Lakers want to close out in five games to get some added rest. The NBA Finals are expected to start next Wednesday, Sept. 30 (unless one conference finals series goes seven games, then it is likely Friday, Oct. 2). If the Lakers lose Saturday but win Game 6 Monday it would be a short turnaround (as it would be after a Game 7).

Denver, however, has played its best basketball whenever it has faced the prospect of packing its bags and going home.

New York congressman insults Knicks, James Dolan funds opponent

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Things are changing with the Knicks. Leon Rose is in the front office, Tom Thibodeau is the coach, and together they are talking about developing players and having a plan moving forward. It’s a reason for hope…

Then there’s James Dolan.

Max Rose, a Democratic congressman from Staten Island, echoed the voice for a lot of Knicks fans when he said: “I’m a Knicks fan to the day I die, but Dolan’s gotta sell. Right now, this is an absolute disgrace.”

We have seen how Dolan reacts to fans saying he should sell the team. In the case of Rose, he is fundraising for the Republican running against him. It would be easy to say “Dolan is a big President Donald Trump supporter and donates to GOP causes all the time” and this isn’t personal, except Dolan sent out an email to help raise funds for Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis and the New York Post got a hold of it.

“Max Rose thinks he can make our team and my ownership his political platform,” Dolan wrote in a personal email to friends last week that was obtained by The Post. “I need to let him know that we will not stand for this. The best way to do this is to help his opponent. He is in a tight race for the US Congress in Staten Island. … Please join me in helping Nicole defeat Max Rose for Congress.

“It will help send a strong message to all NY politicians that the Knicks will not be their political ticket to reelection.

That’s personal. Dolan isn’t just asking other people to donate.

A $50,000 check from MSG Sports was cut Tuesday to “The Governing Majority Fund,” a PAC run by former Reps. John Faso and Jeff Denham, Dolan confirmed. The PAC’s mission is to help Republicans take back the House.

Rose represents New York’s 11th District, a solid Republican district until the 2018 midterms when it became one of 30 districts nationally that flipped blue. The GOP is trying to turn a number of those back, including Rose’s district.

Whatever you think of Rose’s politics (he’s a former Army Ranger, which helped him in a more conservative district), what he said about wanting Dolan to sell the franchise is what many Knicks fans are thinking. Dolan just doesn’t like to hear it. Maybe Rose and Thibodeau can turn the Knicks around — they certainly deserve a chance — but the team has struggled since Dolan became the owner and that’s not a coincidence.

Whatever Rose and Knicks fans want, it’s also highly unlikely Dolan sells the team, there are no rumblings about that around the league (and he certainly has had chances).