Caron Butler is relishing 'precious' opportunity

SACRAMENTO — For just the second time during his 11-year career, Caron Butler has played in as many as 78 regular-season games.

And for Butler, being injury-free for the playoffs, which start Saturday for the Clippers, is key.

When the Clippers met the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs in 2012, Butler suffered a broken left hand in Game 1. He missed Game 2 but played in the rest of the Clippers' playoff games.

"Playing with just one hand in the playoffs last year was like extremely painful and awkward," Butler said. "But I wanted to give my experience and my body and my service on Rudy Gay to try and slow him down to the best of my ability. And whatever the case may be, just go down with the ship or ride with the ship.

"This year going in healthy and feeling real good, I feel extremely confident about our chances to compete for a title."

The sore right knee that kept Butler out of the second half of Saturday night's game is fine.

As Butler reflected on last season's playoffs, he was asked why he played with a broken hand.

"I think it was just trying to set the standard," he said.

Butler recalled when he played for the Dallas Mavericks during the 2010-11 season and ruptured a right patellar tendon that required season-ending surgery.

He missed the final 53 regular-season games and all of the playoffs during Dallas' 2011 championship run.

Butler said the injury last season was painful, but he didn't want to miss out again.

"I know that those times are precious and limited," Butler said. "So if you're able, you should be out there adding and giving whatever you can. On that championship team, my services were in the locker room giving advice, always being vocal, talking and maybe talking too much.

"Now my role has changed with the Clippers. Now that I have the ability and health to be out there to play is all that I could wish for and ask for."

Another Barkley rip

Once again, TNT analyst Charles Barkley says the Clippers don't stand much of a chance to win it all.

"That team has got no toughness," Barkley said on TNT's telecast Tuesday night. "They are not a legitimate contender."

Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro disagreed.

"All that stuff is irrelevant to us, to be honest with you," Del Negro said. "Those guys aren't playing in the game. We have to go out and perform and earn everything. I have great confidence in our team in every aspect."

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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