- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2008

Washington Wizards forward Caron Butler will turn 28 today, and he and the Wizards hope he will celebrate on the court against LeBron James and the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Caron looked good today, he did everything everyone else did and we’ll see how he reacts,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “Caron’s going to be a probability that he’s playing, so we’ll add a little ‘Tough Juice’ to the lineup.”

Butler, who has missed 16 straight games and 19 since Jan. 27 with a small labral tear in his left hip, had his second full-speed practice of the week yesterday. That came a day after he participated in the team’s shootaround Tuesday morning.

And despite three straight days of activity, Butler said he has felt no pain in the hip. Butler, who this season has averaged 21.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game, on Monday practiced for the first time since Feb. 18. He showed explosiveness in that session but pulled himself out for the last five minutes after feeling tightness.

He said the true test of his recovery would be how he felt the next morning, and he felt well enough to take part in the shootaround. He went through the full practice yesterday and even accepted rookie Oleksiy Pecherov’s challenge to a game of Around-the-World afterward.

“After today’s practice, after beating up on Pech a little bit, [I] went in the back, got a little treatment and still feel good,” Butler said. “If I wake up tomorrow and feel the same way, I’ll definitely be on the court.”

Yesterday, Butler said he won’t alter his aggressive playing style, which has earned him the nickname “Tough Juice.” He didn’t hesitate when asked whether he would have the gumption to attack a guarded hoop.

“I will flush it. I will go up and attack,” Butler said. “I’ve played with injuries. I’ve played three weeks after having my knee scoped and I was still out there, dunking and running around crazy. That’s just my style of play. I’m gonna be tough, hard nosed, that’s what the fans come to see. That’s my style and my niche and how I got my name in this league.”

The Wizards, who have lost 11 of their 19 games without Butler during this recent injured stretch, will welcome his return. They are fighting to increase their one-game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference.

Butler will help lighten the load of battered veterans Antawn Jamison (lower back strain), Antonio Daniels (sprained thumb) and DeShawn Stevenson (sore knee). All three missed practice yesterday, but the team listed them as probable for tonight’s game.

The Cavaliers, who rank fourth in the Eastern Conference, enter the game with five players listed on their injury report. But the Wizards won’t discount them. The last time the teams played, the Cavaliers dressed eight players because they had just taken part in a three-team, 11-player trade and their new players — Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith and Delonte West — had yet to complete their physicals. But James scored 33 points and lifted Cleveland to a 90-89 win.

When asked whether he was comfortable enough to stick Butler on his usual assignment of guarding James, Jordan gave his All-Star a vote of confidence.

“If he’s ready to go, he’s fair game and yes, that would be his matchup,” Jordan said.

Today’s game

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS AT WASHINGTON WIZARDS

When: 8 p.m.

Where: Verizon Center

TV/radio: TNT, AM-980

Probable starters: Cavaliers— F LeBron James, F Ben Wallace, C Anderson Varejao, G Devin Brown, G Delonte West. WizardsF Antawn Jamison, F Caron Butler, C Brendan Haywood, G Antonio Daniels, G DeShawn Stevenson.

Injuries: CavaliersG Eric Snow (knee), F/C Ben Wallace (back), C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (back), G Daniel Gibson (ankle), G/F Sasha Pavlovic (foot). Wizards— F Caron Butler (hip), F Oleksiy Pecherov (foot), G Gilbert Arenas (knee), C Etan Thomas (heart surgery).

Mike Jones

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