Talk about a bad start to your year. On January 1st, Maverick forward Caron Butler ruptured his right patellar tendon, subsequently undergoing surgery and eyeing a lengthy recovery period. Dallas originally announced Butler would be out for the season, but the veteran has worked tirelessly to get back in shape and attempt a playoff return. From ESPN:While leaving the Rose Garden after the Mavericks’ series-clinching win over the Portland Trail Blazers, Butler said he could be cleared to practice with contact after being evaluated in a workout when the team returns to Dallas. He expressed optimism that he would be able to play at some point during the Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers. ‘I hope so,’ Butler told ESPNDallas.com. ‘We’ve got to get back and see.’ Butler, a two-time All-Star who formed a close friendship with Kobe Bryant while playing for the Lakers in 2004-05, averaged 15.0 points per game and excelled defensively this season. The Mavericks were 24-7 when Butler got hurt in Milwaukee, with dozens of friends and family members from his hometown of Racine, Wis., in attendance. Although Butler probably wouldn’t play heavy minutes, his return could be especially inspiring to teammates who have witnessed him rehab relentlessly while maintaining a leadership role for the Mavericks. ‘I just want to see him in layup lines,’ Jason Terry said. ‘If he can get up in layup lines, it’s going to boost us immensely emotionally. He’s been here the whole way, though. This guy has worked so hard to get ready for this series.’”