DALLAS _ Caron Butler almost had a triumphant return to the American Airlines Center.
Right before Monday's game against the Dallas Mavericks, a one-minute video was shown on the Jumbotron revealing Butler's exploits during his stay with the Mavs last season. After that, coach Rick Carlisle praised Butler for his efforts in getting the Mavs off to a fast start last season.
Then, owner Mark Cuban presented Butler with his NBA championship ring amidst a very nice ovation from the sellout crowd of 20,346.
"I was very emotional,'' Butler said. "I didn't think I was going to be as emotional.
"Having Mark Cuban, Rick Carlisle, the whole standing ovation, it was just. . .unbelievable.
"It was a great feleing. I almost cried. I had to put my head down a couple of times to try to gather myself.''
Butler hit three three-pointers in the first period and wound up scoring a season-high 23 points -- on 7-of-18 shooting -- and grabbing eight rebounds. And he almost became the hero.
However, with a chance to put the Clippers up by one point, Butler missed a three-point field goal with 4.5 seconds left. The Mavs went on to win, 96-92.
"It felt good,'' Butler said of his final shot of the night. "I got my feet up under me, followed through, it was a routine shot, just fell a little short.
"It would have been a great ending to the game. They didn't have any timeouts left and it would have been the dagger that we needed, but it fell a little short.''
Butler tore his anterior cruciate ligament on Jan. 1, 2011 and never played another game for the Mavs. Butler said he came "close'' to signing a free agent contract with the Mavs last summer, but he eventually signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Clippers.
This was the first time Butler played a game at American Airlines Center since he tallied 30 points in a Dec. 30, 2010 game against the San Antonio Spurs. Two days later, Butler's season ended in a game at the Milwaukee Bucks.
Thus, it was special for Butler to play a game in Dallas on Monday.
"I was in a real good place,'' Butler said of Monday's game. "I just really wanted to come back and step on this floor, one way or another, and just show the fans that I was back healthy.
"There was a lot of love out there and I appreciate that because they got me through a trying time last year.''
-- Dwain Price
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