Center Dwight Howard finally got back on the practice court for the Washington Wizards on Monday. Whether or not he suits up for the team's season-opener on Thursday against the Miami Heat (8 ET, NBA League Pass) remains unknown.
Howard was sidelined for the preseason with pain in his lower back, an injury that forced the big man to be a spectator in every Wizards practice and exhibition game to date. He was diagnosed with a piriformis injury, which is a muscle in the lower buttocks. He was, however, able to go through all of today's practice and sounded somewhat iffy for the season-opener.
Howard told reporters Monday that he wasn't sure if he would be ready to suit up against the Heat, but he also did not rule out a return.
"I'll do whatever I can to make myself available for all 82 games but the main thing is making sure that I’m healthy for the rest of the season," Howard said.
Dwight Howard, who practiced for the first time, asked about the chances he'll play Thursday in season opener:— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) October 15, 2018
“See how it feels. I’ll do whatever I can to make myself available for all 82 games but the main thing is making sure that I’m healthy for the rest of the season.”
Wizards coach Scott Brooks was pleased with how Howard fared in practice, but wasn't ready to commit to a return date for the big man.
"We just want to continue to build on what we did today," Brooks said. "Then, we will get together with Dwight and our staff and medical team and make the best decision for him going forward. That's still days away. You always want to have day after day of work and see how he feels the next day and we'll go from there. As of today, he looked really good. He did everything we did -- he didn't skip any drills. He's a pretty good player."
Scott Brooks on the prospects of Dwight Howard playing in the regular season opener on Thursday: pic.twitter.com/7EFuD0x9aq— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) October 15, 2018
Candace Buckner of The Washington Post reports that before last week's preseason game in New York, Brooks was asked if "it was safe to say" Howard won't play in the opener if he missed the preseason slate.
Brooks' response? "Yeah, that's safe."
Last season, Howard ranked third in the NBA in rebounds per game (12.5), fourth in double-doubles (53), ninth in blocks (1.6) and 11th in field-goal percentage (55.5 percent). Howard's most impressive game of the 2017-18 season came on March 21, when he finished with 32 points and a career-high 30 rebounds in a comeback win against the Nets.
After spending the first eight seasons of his career with the Orlando Magic, Howard has played for the Los Angeles Lakers (2012-13), the Houston Rockets (2013-16), the Atlanta Hawks (2016-17) and the Hornets (2017-18) since then.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.