Banged-up Wizards expect to have Butler back in lineup against Cavs

WASHINGTON -- All-Star forward Caron Butler appears set to celebrate his birthday with a return to the lineup Thursday for the Washington Wizards.

"Caron is going to be probable, so we add a little 'Tough Juice' to the lineup," said coach Eddie Jordan, referring to Butler's nickname. "And we'll see how it goes."

Butler has missed 16 straight games and 19 of the last 21 because of a hip injury. He was originally diagnosed with a strained hip flexor, but an MRI discovered a small labral tear of the left hip joint. The injury also caused Butler to miss the All-Star game.

The Wizards host LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday, which happens to be the day Butler turns 28. Jordan said Butler will start if able to play.

"I've got a nice rhythm. I've got a couple of practices under my belt. I'm not feeling any symptoms," Butler said after Wednesday's practice. "It's a big day with my birthday. Things seem to be really flowing right now, so tomorrow would be a great game to come back."

Butler returned to practice Monday. Other than some tightness in the groin after Tuesday's shootaround, he said he's been fine.

"If I wake up tomorrow and feel the same way, I'll definitely be on the court," he said.

Butler's return would come none too soon for the banged-up Wizards. Gilbert Arenas (knee) and Etan Thomas (recovering from heart surgery) are practicing but still aren't ready to play.

Antawn Jamison (back strain) and Antonio Daniels (sprained left thumb) were sore after Tuesday's win over Milwaukee, but both are listed as probable for Thursday. Oleksiy Pecherov is expected to return after missing one game with a sore right foot.