Denton: Howard to Miss Monday's Game With Sore Back

By John Denton
April 9, 2012

ORLANDO – Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said seeing the way all-star center Dwight Howard pushed through the pain of a lower back injury to ensure victory on Saturday in Philadelphia was inspiring to the rest of the team.

But on Monday, the Magic found out that there is a price to pay for Howard gutting it out through pain in the 88-82 defeat of the Sixers.

The back spasms that shelved Howard for two games last week returned and intensified on Sunday and Monday, knocking the franchise player out of Monday night’s home game against the Detroit Pistons.

``We’ll play without Dwight again, which has been a tough thing for us to do when he’s missed games over the last couple of years,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``But our attitude and energy are different now than they were just two days ago. We’re bouncing back a little and I think our guys will give a tremendous effort tonight.’’

On the positive side, the Magic (33-23) will welcome back power forward Ryan Anderson tonight against the Pistons. Anderson, the NBA’s leader in 3-pointers made and attempted, missed three games last week after suffering a sprained right ankle last week in a loss to the Denver Nuggets.

With Howard and Hedo Turkoglu (facial fractures) out, the Magic will be without two starters. Reserve small forward Quentin Richardson is expected to be available after missing two games with back spasms. J.J. Redick will start at shooting guard, Jason Richardson will move over to small forward and Glen ``Big Baby’’ will start at center in place of Howard.

Howard’s injury is deemed a soft tissue issue and there is nothing structurally wrong with his back, Van Gundy said. But Howard’s 20-point, 22-rebound, six-assist effort on Saturday came at what Van Gundy called ``a personal price.’’

``What he did the other night was phenomenal. He couldn’t even sit on the bench comfortably. At timeouts they were treating it all of the time,’’ Van Gundy marveled. ``For him to fight through it and do what he did was incredible, but the price to him was that the spasms have gotten worse. He did it at a personal price.’’

Howard registered his ninth game this season of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds, by far the most in the league. Also, it’s the 41st such effort of his career, the second most since the 1976-77 NBA-ABA merger. Nelson, a fellow co-captain along with Howard, marveled at how his teammate played through pain.

``He was in a lot of pain and I’ve never seen him like that during a game, practice or anything,’’ Nelson said. ``It was inspiring to see somebody playing with that much pain on their face. It makes you want to run through a wall for him.’’

Van Gundy said that Howard will make the trip to Washington, D.C. with the Magic on Monday night and could possibly play Tuesday against the Wizards. After that, the Magic will have Wednesday and Thursday off before hosting the Atlanta Hawks on Friday in a game that could play a major role in the playoff seedings in the Eastern Conference.

``Regardless of whether he plays on Tuesday or not, we’ll give him two days off and there’s optimism that he’ll be back to 100 percent by Friday,’’ Van Gundy said. ``The good thing is it’s soft tissue stuff and he doesn’t have a bulging disc or a herniated disc or any structural stuff. We’re all pretty optimistic that he’ll be back by Friday.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com

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