Butler Carefully Rehabs Injured Hip

Wizard Caron Butler has missed 16 games with an injured hip and hasn't practiced since Feb. 18.
Wizard Caron Butler has missed 16 games with an injured hip and hasn't practiced since Feb. 18. "My body is going to send me a message about whether I'm going to be able to play or not. The sooner the better, I hope," he said. (By Alex Brandon -- Associated Press)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 7, 2008

Wizards all-star forward Caron Butler, who has missed 16 games with a left hip injury, plans to test the hip in practice on Monday and remains cautiously optimistic that he can return to game action before the end of the regular season.

"I have to get some practices under my belt, see how my body responds to the practices, get some type of basketball rhythm back and see how it plays out," Butler said yesterday. He has not played since a Feb. 5 loss at Philadelphia and has not practiced since Feb. 18, when he experienced a setback. "My body is going to send me a message about whether I'm going to be able to play or not. The sooner the better, I hope."

Butler did not fly with the team to Toronto for tonight's game against the Raptors. The Wizards host Charlotte tomorrow and return to practice on Monday.

Butler's injury originally was diagnosed as a strained left hip flexor following a Jan. 27 overtime loss at Milwaukee, when he scored a career-high 40 points. He sat out the next three games but returned and played 39 minutes in a home loss to the Lakers on Feb. 3.

Two days later, during the second half of a loss at Philadelphia, Butler pulled up in obvious pain while running and limped to the locker room.

He has not played since, and the Wizards dropped to 6-11 without him this season (he also missed the Dec. 22 loss at Indiana with sprained ankles) with a 122-92 home loss to Orlando on Wednesday night.

Butler said he was relieved when a second MRI exam taken last week revealed a slight tear in his labrum, because the latest diagnosis provided an explanation for why he had been feeling so much pain during the rehabilitation process.

The labrum is cartilage around the rim of a joint, such as a hip or shoulder, which adds stability and cushioning. 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, but Butler said he is hopeful that such a step can be avoided.

"That's an ugly word and that will be the very last option," Butler said. "I'd have to play and get pulled out again, play and get pulled out again, play with pain and use all types of resources before I'm like, 'Okay, you can cut me a little bit.' No, that's not an option. I think I'm going to be fine, honestly."

Butler has not practiced in nearly three weeks, and the rest has reduced his discomfort. He has been able to walk, jog and lift weights without experiencing pain.

When he tests his body in practice next week, Butler said he would fight the urge to rush back to game action before he is ready.

"I'm just going to go by how my body feels," Butler said. "I'm not going to allow anybody to pre-hype me and tell me that I should be out there or, 'Man, it would be great if you were out there.' I just have to play it out, and if my body feels good, I'll play. . . . If we continue to win and play good basketball, the pressure's not really there. But if we start dropping games, you can talk to yourself like, 'Well, maybe I can go there at 60 percent and be better than a guy who is 100 percent and healthy, to help this team get over the edge.' But you're really rolling the dice with that, so the best way to do it is to just come back 100 percent or close to 100 percent. That's what I'm waiting on."

Wizards Notes: The Wizards lead the season series with the Raptors 2-1, but suffered their worst loss of the season (122-83) at Toronto on Jan. 30. The Wizards are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, four games behind Toronto and 1 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia.

The Raptors are coming off a 108-83 win at Miami on Wednesday night while the Wizards will attempt to bounce back from a 30-point home loss to Orlando.

"We have to compete better than we did [Wednesday night] and we have to compete with a game plan," Coach Eddie Jordan said. "Normally, we execute our game plans very well, and we have to make shots."

© 2008 The Washington Post Company