WASHINGTON (AP) -All-Star forward Caron Butler returned to practice Monday for the Washington Wizards, giving the struggling team hope that it can finally put its best lineup on the court in the final weeks of the season.
Butler's return came six days after three-time All-Star point guard Gilbert Arenas took part in a full-contact practice for the first time since November. There remains no timetable for either player to take part in a game - especially since both have had setbacks from trying to rush back too quickly - but their anxious teammates can hardly wait.
``It's almost like Christmas,'' team captain Antawn Jamison said. ``You're counting down the days until you can finally open the presents.''
Butler hasn't played since Feb. 5. He was originally diagnosed with a strained hip flexor in late January. He sat out three games, played in two, then shut himself down again. Soon afterward, an MRI exam discovered a small labral tear of the left hip joint.
``I went out there and coach put me right in the fire,'' Butler said. ``He said, 'Go play your game and be you out there.' I felt pretty good. I had a nice rhythm and my teammates were looking for me because they wanted me to get a feel for everything.''
Coach Eddie Jordan said Butler was ``still day-to-day.''
``He still needs another practice or so,'' Jordan said. ``We'll get a better read on him tomorrow. This was the first time he really went through contact and had to change direction in a scrimmage with intensity.''
Arenas, who had knee surgery just eight games into the season, did not practice Monday and instead had a workout and rehabilitation session. Even without Arenas, Jordan savored the fact that he had 12 players available and went immediately into a scrimmage - something that's been difficult to do in recent weeks without having one of his assistant coaches pose as player.
In addition to Butler and Arenas, the Wizards have gone through practices without Etan Thomas (recovering from open heart surgery), Antonio Daniels (ankle) and DeShawn Stevenson (knee). All were on the practice court Monday.
Now it's a matter of getting everyone on the main court.
``I pay attention to Caron a lot because I think he's really close to coming back,'' Stevenson said. ``I think Gilbert is close, too, but at the same time we need to make sure they're healthy. Hopefully we can get them all back at the same time.''
The Wizards have lost their last two home games - including Saturday against Charlotte - and began Monday only a half-game ahead of seventh-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference. Washington hosts Milwaukee on Tuesday.
Advertisement
Advertisement

Top NBA Public Bets

NBA Top Stories

Thumbnail Heat vs. Hawks Prediction Are the Miami Heat a solid underdog play tonight in Atlanta when they visit the Hawks at 7:30PM ET?
Thumbnail Pistons vs. Hornets Pick Can the Charlotte Hornets keep the Detroit Pistons from winning back-to-back games when the two meet up tonight at...
Thumbnail Cleveland could face short-handed scenario The Cavaliers have won seven straight meetings against the Knicks. But can the defending champs keep the magic going tonight in spite of a slew of bumps and...
Thumbnail Magic vs. Wizards Prediction The Magic are in Washington tonight to take on the Wizards at 7:00PM ET. Are they a solid underdog play?
Thumbnail Bulls vs. Pistons Prediction Will the Chicago Bulls be able to bounce back when they face the Detroit Pistons tonight at 7:30PM ET?

NBA Team Pages