Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 4/30/12
MEMPHIS By the time the Clippers had put the finishing touches on their Miracle in Memphis, Caron Butler was already showered, dressed in a radiant blue suit and had his broken left hand splinted and wrapped in a bandage. No such wrapping was required to hold his emotions together. Butler, as he spoke to reporters outside the training room late Sunday night, kept any disappointment about his injury, which the team said will keep him out four to six weeks, well hidden. He seemed just as thrilled as everyone else in the locker room about seizing the lead in their Western Conference series. A night's sleep, fitful as it might have been, did nothing to dim Butler's mood Monday when the grim reality of his injury had time to settle in. For a player who worked relentlessly to return to the Dallas Mavericks during the NBA Finals last June after suffering a knee injury, only to not be activated, Butler now appears to be robbed of a postseason for the second consecutive season. "I sent him a text late last night telling him how hurt I am for him because of how hard he worked to get back on the court and didn't get an opportunity to do that championship run last year with the Mavericks, Clippers guard Chris Paul said. "Now it's the situation with his hand. Through the first weekend of the playoffs, a major storyline is the continuing spate of injuries Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert tearing knee ligaments, Ray Allen sitting out the Celtics' loss to Atlanta, and the Clippers losing Butler. Coach Vinny Del Negro was coy about who would replace Butler. The obvious candidate would be Nick Young, who led the Clippers with 19 points Sunday night including a torrent of 3-pointers that sparked their comeback. But Young's role off the bench is valuable and he gives away two inches and 20 pounds to Memphis small forward Rudy Gay, so the starting job could go to Bobby Simmons, a bigger veteran who did not play Sunday. "We're going to miss him, Del Negro said. "It makes you weaker when you lose a player like that. We're going to have to make some adjustments and we're just going to have to handle it. Butler, who has not yet regained his explosiveness from last year's knee surgery, shot 40.7 percent his lowest in eight years. But it is the little things that must be replaced. For example, with the Clippers down 19 points at halftime, he was among the first to be more aggressive. Though it didn't immediately allow the Clippers to slice into the lead they trailed by 27 when Butler went to the bench their aggressiveness would be the cornerstone for their comeback. "Coach made an emphasis on that at halftime, Butler said. "Let's stop hoping and wishing something comes to us. We got punched in the mouth pretty hard in the first half. At the start of the third, we started to make that transition and the momentum started turning. And obviously in the fourth quarter, we started making shots and getting stops and the rest is history, literally. If there is somebody who can relate to Butler it is Chauncey Billups, who tore his Achilles tendon and is out for the season. Last April, the Knicks nearly upset the Celtics in their series opener but Billups injured his knee late in the game and did not return for the series, in which New York was swept. "Now you're just in a position where you have to help from the bench, but it's not the same, Billups said. "I could say what I want and you do the best you can, but it's a helpless feeling, I can tell you that. If the Clippers were to reach the Western Conference finals, perhaps Butler would be back by then if the delicate injury a fractured metacarpal bone heals quickly. Butler said he might see about being able to return earlier, perhaps with some protection on his non-shooting hand. "I want to be where I have to make a serious decision and weigh my options, Butler said. "I know I can play. It may not be four weeks. We'll see what happens. I look forward to playing in the next series. A lot would have to happen for that. The Clippers will have to make do without him, and get by Memphis. Then, he would have to make a remarkable recovery. But pardon the Clippers if they believe in miracles.
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