- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2005

The last time Caron Butler played at MCI Center he was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, a team approaching the end of a tumultuous season in the aftermath of the Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant debacle.

By that time Butler and his teammates had long since come to grips with the fact they would be the first Lakers team to miss the playoffs since the 1993-94 season. Butler scored 20 points in that March14 game, won 95-81 by the Wizards. But what he remembers more than anything about MCI Center was the pulsing atmosphere as the sellout crowd embraced the Wizards, who that night improved to 34-27 on their way to the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“I was shocked by the noise and excitement,” said Butler, who will make his Wizards home debut tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers after a thigh bruise forced him to miss Saturday night’s home opener. “It was like a whole Wizards movement was going on. It was something that you really wanted to be a part of. You see that coming and you don’t feel like you have a shot at winning. I’m happy to be on this side of things.”

Butler, who played a key role in the Wizards’ season-opening victory at Toronto with 11 points and seven rebounds, worked out yesterday and has been cleared tonight at MCI Center, where last season the Wizards won the most games (29) in one campaign since the building opened in December 1997. The last time a Washington team fared better at home was in 1988-89, when the Bullets won 30 at Capital Centre.

While Butler, who averaged 15.5 points last season with the Lakers before being traded along with Chucky Atkins for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit, is expected to play significant minutes, Antonio Daniels will not be in the starting lineup. Daniels sprained his left ankle in the third quarter of the Wizards’ home opener, a 87-79 victory over Orlando.

In his place the Wizards (3-0) will start Jarvis Hayes, who last season made 22 starts but missed the final 28 games of the season with a fractured right kneecap.

“Jarvis has played very good defense for us and he’s played the right way,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “And at this point of the season I think he’s in the best shape since he’s been here. We like the fact that Jarvis will be available.”

Jordan indicated the Wizards hope to have Daniels back by the weekend. The Wizards play host to Seattle, Daniels’ team the past two seasons, on Friday and San Antonio on Saturday.

While the Wizards were good at home last season, they played particularly well in situations when they had four or more games in succession at home. Last season the Wizards had four homestands of four games or more and went 16-2 in those games.

Gilbert Arenas, averaging 26 points and shooting 47.6 percent from the field in the first three games, said he expects MCI Center to be consistently louder this season than it was last.

“It was 10 times louder for the home opener this time than it was last year,” Arenas said, comparing the game with the Magic to last year’s opener against Miami and O’Neal. “We’re going to have a good home crowd because of the way we finished up last season and hopefully because of the way we’ve started out.”

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