By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 29, 2008
CHICAGO, Feb. 28 -- The Washington Wizards are optimistic that Caron Butler will be able to return to basketball activity after resting his hip, according to a league source familiar with the injury.
The two-time all-star forward has missed 10 straight games -- and 13 of the last 15 -- with a left hip injury that was originally diagnosed as a strained left hip flexor. Earlier this week, a second MRI exam revealed that Butler has a slight labral tear in his left hip. The team says he will be reevaluated at some point next week.
The Wizards do not allow team medical personnel to discuss injuries with reporters, and team president Ernie Grunfeld has a policy of not commenting on injuries.
The Wizards (27-30) face the Chicago Bulls (23-34) Friday night and host the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday. The team is 4-10 without Butler, who also missed one game with ankle sprains, and is 24-25 without three-time all-star guard Gilbert Arenas, who remains out with a left knee injury.
"I don't really want to go into it," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said of Butler's situation. "He's in our doctor's hands and our trainers' hands. Caron is very special to us. I'm not going to talk about the injury and the timing of all that, but as a player, as a human being -- he means a lot to us. So, we just have to move ahead and go forward with the guys we've got."
Butler originally injured the hip during a Jan. 27 loss at Milwaukee and missed the next three games before playing 39 minutes in a home loss to the Lakers on Feb. 3.
He started at Philadelphia two days later but felt something "grab" in the hip area during the second half of that game, limped to the locker room and has not played since.
After staying home during the team's five-game western road trip and then sitting out the Feb. 17 All-Star Game, Butler practiced on Feb. 18 but woke up with pain and stiffness the next morning. It was decided that he should back off of rehabilitation exercises and allow the hip to heal.
The labrum is the cartilage found around the rim of a joint such as the hip or shoulder and its function is to add stability and cushioning to the joint. With a labral injury, rest and physical therapy can reduce pain and allow an athlete to resume activity. If pain is persistent, surgery is sometimes an option.
According to Francis O'Connor of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, diagnosing and treating hip injuries are among the most challenging tasks facing doctors and trainers who deal with athletes.
"Labral tears in the hip are a relatively new diagnosis in the world of sports medicine," O'Connor said. "The imaging we now have available with an MRI arthrogram has allowed doctors to view detail in the hip area better than ever before. Still, hip pathology can be very complex because of the relatively small amount of blood flow to the area and the many muscles and other structures near the hip joint. The key question when it comes to a labral tear is: Is the tear related to the athlete's pain or was it always there?"
Butler has not been available to comment since the team announced the labral tear Wednesday. On Feb. 21, he expressed frustration about the injury but said he would not come back until he could make it through a full practice without experiencing pain.
"I'm not going to go through a situation where I step back on the court and the same thing occurs again like it did in Philly," Butler said. "I want to come back 100 percent so we can make a push at this thing."
The Wizards are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, 1 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia and New Jersey, which beat Milwaukee on Thursday night. The Bulls are in 10th place, 2 1/2 games behind the 76ers and Nets.
"Nobody is going to feel sorry for us," forward Antawn Jamison said. "So we're just going to have to find a way to rely on the guys we have until those guys get healthy and can help us again."
On Friday night, the Wizards will see a much different Bulls team than the one that beat them, 95-84, at Verizon Center on Dec. 19. Chicago shook up its roster with a trade that sent Ben Wallace and Joe Smith to Cleveland and landed, among others, former Wizard Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden, who has given the Wizards problems over the years while playing with Cleveland.
In Chicago's 113-107 win at Indiana on Wednesday night, Hughes finished with 29 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds -- the kind of statistical line he regularly put up during the 2004-05 season with Washington -- and meshed particularly well with Bulls guard Ben Gordon. That came as no surprise to Arenas, who maintains a close friendship with Hughes.
"People are going to see the real Larry again," Arenas said. "Watch, him and Ben Gordon are going to play well together. You can put the ball in either of their hands and run the offense through them. They will create shots for themselves and for teammates."