Now in his 14th season, veteran forward Caron Butler is trying to bring leadership to the Kings’ locker room during a tough year in Sacramento. Off the court, the one-time champion and two-time All-Star is getting bigger and bigger with his business ventures, like the movie that will soon be made out of his life and which Mark Wahlberg will produce.
What does it mean to you that your autobiography Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA will have a movie version?
Caron Butler: I feel great. It’s a dream come true. It’s a blessing, I’m extremely humbled and grateful for that. I love it!
Your partnership with Mark Wahlberg… How did he get involved in this project?
CB: You know, being in L.A., I met him and started a great friendship. And once my story got out there over the years, something that I’ve never talked about a lot is my past, so once it’s out there and the book is written, we put it out, he said ‘This can be a hell of a movie’. And I was like ‘Really?’ And he’s like ‘Man, I love it, let’s make something happen with it.’
Sounds like a scene from Entourage…
CB: Yeah, I mean, when he reached out to me and told me something like that… When he talks, everyone listens. The influence that he has in the entertainment business and all the other things that he does… You know, I was like, ‘Man, this could really be huge and impactful, and change a lot of lives.’ So I’m excited right now.
In which stage is the movie now. Script? Locations?
CB: Well, right now we have to go through the process of looking for writers, screenplay, casting… This takes like a month or so, and then you have 18 to 20 months for getting all the stuff together and done. Now he’s going to be extremely busy with other projects, really big projects. One is a sequel, you know with the Transformers film and everything… So it’s going to be a process. But he really wants to get it done. I met with him on Monday, had dinner and we’re looking forward to the future.
Everybody wants to know who’s going to play your role in the film… Who would you like to do it?
CB: I have two people in mind. First, the kid from Creed, Michael B. Jordan. He did an unbelievable job there. He also did an unbelievable job at Fruitvale Station, The Wire… An another guy is Robbie Jones. He did Hurricane Season. Great actor, really good friend, he came to visit me in Sacramento. I’m a huge fan of his work.
If you had to choose an NBA player to play your part, who would that be?
CB: [Laughs] I don’t know, man…
Not Shaq, I guess…
CB: No, it can’t be Shaq. I’d say Russell Westbrook.
CB: He’s got that edge, man. He’s a guy that is really diverse, he can do anything. He’s multitalented.
Let’s talk about your season. You’ve never averaged fewer than 21 minutes per game, and now you’re at just 9, having played only 11 games so far. How tough has it been for you?
CB: It’s always tough being in a situation in which you’re losing games, and it’s even tougher when you’re not being able to play… But as a veteran guy, I’ve been through everything on and off the court, I like to provide stability. I like to keep the guys together, keep them goal-oriented and continue to fight and rally around each other. Right now, our competitive nature is being challenged and we’ve got to bring our best game while we’re on the court.
Everyone is looking for answers. Especially about DeMarcus Cousins. On Monday, David Aldridge of NBA.com wrote: “I’m sure Sacramento will look seriously at moving Cousins this summe.” You’ve been with nine teams now. How hard has it been for Cousins this season? Do the trade rumors bother him?
CB: I really don’t know. That’s a question DeMarcus would have to answer because I don’t know if he pays attention to that type of stuff. I don’t know if the rumors are true… What I want to say is that he’s been a professional about coming to the games, playing at a high level, and just continuing to do all the little things that we need from him as a teammate and as a player. And that’s all you can ask for.
In your opinion, where’s Cousins among the top players in the league? Top 10 player?
CB: I think as far as talent he’s a Top 5 player in this game right now. Doing what he is doing from a numbers standpoint, I’ve seen him against the other big men in the game and he’s the best big man right now in the game. We’re talking basketball, we’re not talking about wins and losses or anything like that. You put him out there, and he’s going to make something happen. The guy is averaging 27 points, 11 rebounds… He’s been a monster.
You signed a two-year contract with the Kings, and the second year is a player option… How are you feeling about the chance of opting out this summer?
CB: I feel good. I mean, it’s always good to have options, to have this freedom about what you want to do, about what’s next. But there’s still another 16 games left. I honestly really haven’t thought about what’s going to happen in July, or after the season or anything yet. When you’re going through a trying season, you’re just thinking about like in the moment. What I’ve learned as a veteran guy, a guy who’s been around for many years, is that you can’t live too far ahead, you’ve got to live in the moment, be in the moment. I’m trying to stay in the moment, keep the guys focused.
Do you see yourself playing many more years in the NBA although you’re not playing too much this year?
CB: Yeah. My body healed and I’m still fresh [laughs].
You’re one of Kobe’s favorite teammates even though you only played together for one season. Why is that?
CB: I think it’s because we spent a lot of time with each other. He was always in the gym and we worked out together. We just really got to know each other. We did a lot of communication and we built a bond, a friendship that will last well beyond basketball. Every time I come to L.A., which I’m in L.A. a lot and this will be home at some point after basketball, we always communicate, we always talk. Whenever I’m in the city we grab dinner or something like that. We have a genuine friendship.
How’s the Burger King business going?
CB: It’s going well, man. I’m happy that I’m doing some more things too. I just started the Fala Bar, opened a big new restaurant in Los Angeles last November and it’s going really well. Just keeping myself busy.
Keep going like that and you’re going to become bigger than Wahlberg.
CB: [Laughs] I like being around people that inspire me to do great things, to continue to push myself and raise the bar. It’s just not basketball, I want to explore more opportunities.
Gilbert Arenas has an Instagram account and he recently wrote some posts that drew a lot of attention. He mocked the Flint water crisis, wrote that WNBA players should play in underwear to sell more tickets… Just wanted to ask you if you would like to give some advice to your former teammate.
CB: I actually just texted Gilbert about a couple of weeks ago, told him that it would be nice to meet, sit down and talk after the season is over. I’ve always had a great deal of respect to him. He’s one of the most talented players that I’ve ever played with. I just look forward to sitting down with him. Just talk with him, see where he’s at. He really is a good dude.