Butler Takes a Lap Around Practice

Wizards all-star Caron Butler has missed 18 games with a left hip injury. He won't play tonight.
Wizards all-star Caron Butler has missed 18 games with a left hip injury. He won't play tonight. (By Jonathan Daniel -- Getty Images)
  Enlarge Photo    
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 11, 2008; Page E04

Some of the energy and playmaking the Wizards have sorely lacked without Caron Butler was on display yesterday when the two-time all-star participated in his first practice since Feb. 18.

Butler, who has missed 18 games with a left hip injury, was excited to get back onto the court but also was eager to see how he would feel last night and today. Butler won't play tonight against Milwaukee but if things go well, he will practice Thursday and continue to move toward a return to game action.

"It felt real good and now we'll see how the body responds [Tuesday]," Butler said. "But I was able to move around with no pain. At the end, probably the last five minutes of practice, I decided to pull out and get a little ice. Because of overcompensation, I had a little tightness in my groin area but that was it. Overall, I felt good."

Butler said a groin and hip specialist was scheduled to fly in from Los Angeles and meet with him last night.

Coach Eddie Jordan was encouraged by what he saw out of Butler during a practice that included high-energy five-on-five full-court scrimmaging, something the Wizards have not been able to do much this season because of injuries.

"He looked great today," Jordan said. "A lot of speed and explosion and great passing and just running up and down the floor. He looked really good. A lot better than I thought. He went through 95 percent of practice."

Neither Butler nor the team has established a timetable for his return to game action and Butler is understandably cautious after experiencing a series of setbacks since suffering the injury during an overtime loss at Milwaukee on Jan. 27.

The injury originally was diagnosed as a strained hip flexor, and Butler missed three games before returning for 39 minutes in a home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 3. Two days later, Butler pulled up in while running during the second half of a loss at Philadelphia and limped to the locker room in pain.

After missing the last five games prior to the all-star break and sitting out the All-Star Game, Butler went through a full practice on Feb. 18 but woke up the next morning with stiffness and soreness.

An MRI exam the following week revealed a partial tear in the left labrum. Rest was prescribed with the hope that the pain and swelling would subside.

Butler appeared to pass an important test yesterday when he ran, cut and even threw down a handful of dunks.

" I played a lot," Butler said. "We got right into it. I scrimmaged, got a lot of contact. Coach just put me right in the fire. He just said: 'go.' I felt really good and had a good rhythm. My teammates were looking for me because they wanted me to get a feel for everything so overall I felt good until the last five minutes when I felt a little tightness [in the groin] and just pulled myself out."

The Wizards can only hope that Butler and three-time all-star guard Gilbert Arenas, who did not practice yesterday, will be back in the lineup soon. Arenas recently was cleared to return to practice on his surgically repaired left knee but is taking a cautious approach. Also on the comeback trail is veteran center Etan Thomas, who underwent heart surgery in October but was recently cleared to participate in contact workouts.

Arenas and Thomas could return to game action as soon as they feel physically ready.

Washington (30-32) holds a one-game lead over seventh-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference. The remainder of the month features games against Cleveland, Orlando and Detroit and a five-game road trip with games against Western Conference heavyweights such as the Lakers and Utah Jazz.

"It's good to see those guys moving around, getting closer and closer to playing," said all-star forward Antawn Jamison, who along with DeShawn Stevenson and Andray Blatche, is the only Wizard who has appeared in every game. "We'd like to see them get there but we've got to be patient. It's almost like Christmas. You're counting the days until you can finally open the presents."

© 2008 The Washington Post Company