Butler Ready to Play for Wizards

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Caron Butler will celebrate his 28th birthday tonight by doing what he does best: He'll suit up and play basketball.

The Wizards' all-star, who has missed 17 straight games with a left hip injury, went through a full practice yesterday without feeling any pain and will likely return to the lineup for an important game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Verizon Center.

Following yesterday's practice, Butler put himself through one final test with a game of one-on-one against rookie forward Oleksiy Pecherov.

"After practice and after beating up on Pesh a little bit, I went in the back, got a little treatment and I still feel good," Butler said. "If I wake up [Thursday] feeling the same way, I'll definitely be on the court."

It remains to be seen how many minutes Butler will play and what kind of impact he can have after missing so many games, but his return comes at a particularly good time because the Wizards (31-32) are clinging to sixth place in the Eastern Conference. A win tonight would move them back to .500 for the first time since a Feb. 6 home loss to San Antonio.

The Wizards are 1-2 against Cleveland this season but will catch the Cavaliers, who lost at New Jersey last night, on a back-to-back.

"Caron is going to be probable so we add a little bit of tough juice to the lineup and we'll see how it goes," Coach Eddie Jordan said.

The Wizards are one game ahead of Philadelphia and 5 1/2 games up on Atlanta.

Several players are battling injuries as the team prepares for a tough stretch that includes tonight's game and contests against playoff-bound opponents such as Orlando, Detroit, the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah.

All-star forward Antawn Jamison has played some of the best basketball of his career in helping the Wizards stay competitive despite the absence of Butler and three-time all-star Gilbert Arenas, but he's been bothered by soreness in his lower back since last Wednesday's home loss to Orlando and did not practice yesterday.

Jamison and guard Antonio Daniels, who also did not practice after catching his left thumb on an opponent's jersey late during Tuesday's 105-97 home win over Milwaukee, are probable according to Jordan, which means that they will likely play.

Still, given the team's bad luck with injuries the last two seasons, it would somehow be fitting for the team to play without two starters on the same night that Butler returns.

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