Denton: Howard Says He & Stan Talk Regularly

By John Denton
May 4, 2012

ORLANDO – Stopped by a photographer for the celebrity gossip website, TMZ.com, during his daily rehabilitation walk, superstar center Dwight Howard discussed how much he misses his Orlando Magic teammates, his regular talks with head coach Stan Van Gundy and the severity of his back injury.

Howard had surgery in Marina Del Ray, Calif., on April 20 to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. The surgery ended the three-time Defensive Player of the Year’s season with the Magic and his hopes of playing in the Summer Olympics. And because Howard is undergoing daily rehabilitation on his back in Southern California, spine specialist Dr. Robert Watkins barred Howard from returning to Orlando to rejoin his Magic teammates during the playoffs.

``I’m a little sad. I just left rehab. I’m a little sad that I can’t be in Orlando with my teammates for the playoffs. I went back and forth with my doctor for a couple of days and he just said, `Dwight I need you to stay here and I don’t need you going back and forth or traveling or anything.’ I feel like I’m in jail right now,’’ Howard told the TMZ.com photographer. ``I really wish I could be there for my teammates. It’s a tough time for me and for my team. They need me and I need them. I’ve been talking to the guys after each and every game, supporting them and telling them what they need to do.’’

Howard said he and Van Gundy have talked ``a bunch of times’’ during the playoffs with the all-star center offering up suggestions and encouragement. Van Gundy said he got a sense that Howard’s spirits are down because he can’t be around his teammates while he recovers from surgery.

``Right before Game 2, I did (talk to Howard),’’ Van Gundy said. ``He’s bored to death because he can’t do anything. He’s sitting in a motel doing his rehab and the rehab isn’t anything much. It’s not like he’s out running three miles or anything. He’s starting slow, so he’s bored more than anything.’’

Howard said Dr. Watkins, who performed the surgery, confirmed the severity of his back injury and stressed to him the need to properly rehabilitate following the procedure in which he had a one-inch cut near his spine. Howard said the findings in the surgery confirmed why he was having so much pain in his lower back.

``The doctor is one of the best in the world and he told me the (disc) fragment is one of the biggest that he’s ever seen. He’s been doing this for 20-something years and he said I need to have that (disc fragment) removed or else it was going to limit my play,’’ Howard said during the street interview. ``I told (Dr. Watkins) that he was the best and that I would listen to him and just get ready for next year.’’

Howard said he was insulted that there were reports that he purposely left the team because he is estranged from the Magic organization because of his run-ins with Van Gundy. Howard said it’s just the contrary and that he’s watched all three of the Magic playoff games and offered support to his teammates and Van Gundy via several cell phone calls.

``I’ve never been a quitter my whole life. I’ve played through many injuries and this is just one that I couldn’t play through. I would never quit on my team, my fans or my coach,’’ Howard said. ``I’ve never been a quitter and just for people to say that it hurts. But I understand that I’m not there to talk about it and tell my side, so people are going to make up things to say. But anybody who has anything bad to say about me, I forgive them.’’

Howard ended the interview by chanting, `We All We Got,’ the slogan the Magic adopted after losing their franchise center for the rest of the season. Trailing 2-1 in their best of seven series, the Magic host the Indiana Pacers in Game 4 on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Amway Center.

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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