Butler signs with Sacramento Kings

Caron Butler doesn’t have any illusions.

Now 35 years old, Butler realizes his best days as an NBA player are behind him. Still, Butler believes there’s plenty in his tank. The Sacramento Kings obviously agree.

The Kings convinced Butler, a Racine native and former Park High School standout, to agree to a guaranteed two-year contract Friday. Butler will be paid $3.5 million per year, with a player option in the next year.

Butler expects to sign a contract next week when he flies to the West Coast to meet with Kings officials.

“I am extremely excited,’’ Butler said Friday night in a telephone interview. “This is a good situation for me. I like the opportunity they’re giving me. I can be an asset to the Kings organization.’’

Butler played with the Detroit Pistons last season before being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks June 11. He was then released by the Bucks for salary-cap purposes and became an unrestricted free agent July 1, meaning he could sign with any of the NBA’s 30 teams.

Butler said he or his agent, Raymond Brothers, had discussions with a slew of teams, including several title contenders.

“I talked to Chicago, San Antonio, the (Los Angeles) Lakers, (New Orleans) Pelicans, the (Los Angeles) Clippers as well as Sacramento, of course,’’ Butler said. “Stan Van Gundy reached back out to me as well.’’

Van Gundy is the head coach and president of basketball operations for Detroit. He played a major role in bringing Butler to Detroit last season.

Van Gundy acknowledged he was quite reluctant to trade Butler to the Bucks, but couldn't pass up the chance to secure Ersan Ilyasova in the transaction. Ilyasova is expected to be the Pistons’ starting power forward this season.

“Caron, in particular, is difficult to say goodbye to,’’ Van Gundy said at the time of the trade. “Not only did he play well for us, his leadership went above and beyond. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a single player have a more positive impact on a team than Caron did on ours.

“He is a special person and we will always respect and appreciate what he did here.’’

Butler, a two-time NBA All-Star, is expected to play a similar leadership role for the Kings, who have been in turmoil.

It has been well documented that Kings coach George Karl and center DeMarcus Cousins are at odds, even to the point where there has been speculation Karl could be fired or Cousins could be traded.

Butler believes he can help stabilize the volatile situation and be a positive influence in the Kings’ locker room.

Butler said he had conversations with Vlade Divac, the Kings vice president of basketball operations, and former Kings standout and friend Peja Stojakovic. They all agreed Butler could bring a calming influence to the Kings.

“With the right voices, with George Karl being the main one, and with some other people, we want to bring stability to the locker room,’’ said Butler, a 14.3-point per game scorer in his 13-year NBA career. “I want to help out on the court, of course, but I also want to show them how to be professional on and off the court.

"You want that foundation to be strong.’’

If the Kings can eradicate their internal strife, they could be a surprise team in the ultra-competitive Western Conference next season.

They drafted Willie Cauley-Stein, a gifted shotblocker, in the lottery, and they recently signed veteran Rajon Rondo, one of the best point guards in the game.

Cousins is arguably the best center in the game and Gay is a top-flight small forward.

“To be playing alongside Rudy Gay, Boogie Cousins and Rondo and (Ben) McLemore and with a good coach in George Karl … ,’’ Butler said. “This team has a lot of talent and it has a lot of potential. I just think it’s a great opportunity for me.’’

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