Caron Butler happy about his return

PLAYA VISTA -- Caron Butler only scored four points in 23 minutes in his return to the court Saturday, but no matter.

That's not why he came back so early from a fractured left hand suffered in last week's Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies. He came back five days after breaking his hand so he could simply play a part in the Los Angeles Clippers' playoff run -- something he didn't get to do last season with the Dallas Mavericks.

So while he wasn't an offensive threat in Game 3, it was his defense on Memphis' Rudy Gay that the Clippers and coach Vinny Del Negro desired.

"The role that I’m playing right now, what I’m doing, I can play with no hands," Butler said after a brief Clippers practice on Sunday. "It’s not a big deal.

"I can play."

He can play, but he also can't play without significant pain. Butler admitted that the hand was bothering him Saturday -- "I felt it pretty much all night," he said -- but never extreme enough to force him out of the game.

The decision to let him play was made after a specialist told him the injury wouldn't get any worse if he suited up. So he got outfitted with a brace for the non-shooting hand, did some shooting the day before the game at the Clippers' practice facility and worked out again before the game.

"It’s not going to get any more broke," Butler said Sunday. I pretty much took it in stride ... it felt comfortable enough to be somewhat effective out there."

The 32-year-old Butler, nicknamed "Tuff Juice" years ago in Washington for his quick recovery from injuries, took seven shots and made two Saturday. He also recorded a steal, a block and three rebounds in the 22 minutes he logged, guarding Gay most of the time.

He is expected to start Monday's Game 4 against the Grizzlies at the Staples Center, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. PT.