- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2007

While the Washington Wizards look as if they are doing their best to self-destruct, Caron Butler still holds a glimmer of hope he will be able to return in time to help the team in the playoffs.

Butler fractured his right hand while trying to block a dunk by Milwaukee’s Ruben Patterson on Sunday and since has had his hand placed in a cast. While the team’s medical staff has said he will be out at least six weeks, Butler is going to do everything possible to play in the first round this month.

“I’m really looking forward to getting out there in the playoffs,” Butler said. “It’s going to be hard for them to keep me from that court. I’m seriously thinking about pushing it. I’m going to give it a shot; I’m not ruling it out.”

Butler, a four-year veteran with his third team, had been having his best season to date. Named an All-Star for the first time in his career, Butler was averaging career highs in points (19.1) and rebounds (7.4) and was tied for the league lead in steals (2.1).

Butler has a team-leading 21 double-doubles and earlier this season was named the Eastern Conference player of the week for Jan. 15 to Jan. 21.

If Butler is out the full six weeks — and that is the earliest the Wizards are saying he would be ready to return — he might be able to rejoin the team for the second round of the playoffs.

However, making it that far might be wishful thinking for the Wizards. Since holding a 27-17 record on Jan. 30, the Wizards have gone just 12-18, including losses the last two nights to the woeful Charlotte Bobcats, and now they could be missing leading scorer Gilbert Arenas for an extended period with a sprained left knee.

Butler, who spoke before last night’s game, had his right hand covered almost completely in a cast that had been signed by family and friends.

He appears to be in good spirits despite the injury and for now said he is OK with being a cheerleader on the bench. He did admit, however, that watching the Wizards’ 122-102 loss to Charlotte on Tuesday — their first game without him since he broke his hand — was not easy.

“I’m very confident in the team,” Butler said. “Darius [Songaila] is playing well, Antawn [Jamison] will step it up. Everybody is going to step it up and get the team rolling. It’s hard, but we know what we have to do. We have to win games and develop some rhythm to carry into the playoffs.”

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