Caron Butler won't get a chance on Tuesday to duplicate his last performance against the Milwaukee Bucks, but at least his teammates know he's a lot closer to providing some kind of contribution.
Though he is back practicing, Butler will remain a spectator as his Washington Wizards continue their fight to secure one of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spots when they host the Bucks.
Butler has been sidelined since Feb. 5 with a hip injury and has played just twice for Washington (30-32) since Jan. 27, when he scored a career-high 40 points in a 105-102 overtime loss to Milwaukee (23-40). On Monday, he finally returned to full-contact practice, but Butler is not saying when he'll be ready to return.
"We don't want to put a timetable on it," Butler said. "We just want to see how my body feels and we'll go off that. A couple of weeks ago I had a great practice and the following day I felt horrible, so we'll see how it feels tomorrow."
Butler's return comes a few days after Gilbert Arenas had his first full-contact practice since undergoing knee surgery eight games into the season. Arenas did not practice Monday and instead had a workout and rehabilitation session.
"It's good to see those guys moving around and getting closer and closer to playing," Antawn Jamison said. "It's almost like Christmas: You're counting down the days until you can finally open the presents."
The Wizards had been doing fairly well without Butler and Arenas, winning five of seven, before a 100-97 home loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday. Washington was outscored 35-21 in the first quarter and its late comeback attempt fell short.
The Wizards are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of Philadelphia and 4 1/2 in front of eighth-place Atlanta.
"Some games we've played well and some games we've played badly, but the most important thing is that we're playing together," Washington's DeShawn Stevenson said. "We're waiting for Gilbert and Caron to get back and we think they're real close and that's a good thing."
Jamison is averaging 25.5 points and 10.3 rebounds in four games this month after finishing with 30 points and 10 boards on Saturday.
That defeat opened a five-game homestand for Washington, which has lost six of eight at the Verizon Center. After this stretch, only six of the Wizards' final 16 games are at home.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, has lost five of six, including a 119-97 defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. Charlie Villanueva scored 25 points for the Bucks, who trailed 65-43 at the half and allowed the 76ers to shoot 60.3 percent from the field.
"We laid a big egg effort-wise," coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "It's demoralizing to have them shoot like that."
Mo Williams missed his third straight game with an abdominal strain and Yi Jianlian missed his third in a row due to a sprained ankle. Both are considered day-to-day during a crucial time, with Milwaukee still in the hunt for a playoff spot despite having the third-worst record in the East.
"We're not going to lose hope or give up and quit," Krystkowiak said. "It's not impossible, but it is getting improbable."
Milwaukee's opponents are averaging 112.0 points and shooting 51.0 percent over the last six games.
The Bucks and the Wizards split the first two meetings this season, and both were in Milwaukee. Washington has won three straight and five of six at home in this series.
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