Caron Butler will be in the Clippers' starting lineup for Game 3. (Getty Images)Caron Butler, who broke his left hand less than one week ago, will start at small forward for the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 3 of the team's first-round Western Conference series against the Memphis Grizzlies. News of Butler's much-faster-than-expected return to duty was first reported by Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner reported on Saturday afternoon, citing "sources who were not authorized to speak publicly on the situation," and later confirmed by Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, according to Clippers.com's Eric Patten.
Butler broke a bone in his left hand during the third quarter of the Clippers' 99-98 Game 1 comeback win over the Grizzlies last Sunday night. After the hand was X-rayed, the prognosis was that the veteran swingman would be sidelined for four to six weeks, a timetable that would force the Clips to move forward without one of their few experienced playoff performers. Butler scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting in 23 minutes of play before the injury forced him off the court.
Backup Bobby Simmons replaced Butler in the starting lineup for Game 2, making four of five shots and scoring nine points in 22 1/2 minutes for Del Negro but having a difficult time containing Grizzlies star Rudy Gay (21 points on 9-of-13 shooting) as Memphis evened the series on Wednesday night.
But with L.A. getting set to host a pivotal Game 3 on their home court Saturday afternoon, Butler has apparently been declared ready to go, according to Turner:
The decision was made after Butler practiced Friday and after he saw a hand specialist Thursday, the sources said. Butler, who is right-handed, did some shooting at practice with a brace on his hand. [...]
Butler was told by the specialist that if he injured the hand any further that the time frame for him to return would most likely remain the same, the sources said.
The remarkably quick comeback wil only burnish the reputation built over the years by the 10-year veteran, who has appeared in the postseason six times with four different teams, as one of the league's toughest pound-for-pound players. The question, though is how much Butler will actually be able to provide the Clippers; while the injury is to his non-shooting hand, a busted guide hand can put a hitch in his shooting giddy-up, give hard-nosed Grizzlies defenders like Tony Allen a target for swipes and pokes, and limit Butler's ability to close off angles and disrupt passing lanes on the defensive end.
Game 3 tips off at Staples Center at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday.