Denton: Howard to Have Season-Ending Back Surgery

By John Denton
April 19, 2012

ORLANDO – Forced to play without two of their injured starters much of the past two weeks, the Orlando Magic recently adopted the slogan ``We’re all we’ve got’’ as a rallying cry when they break huddles and end practice.

That slogan took on a drastically different meaning on Thursday night when it was determined that Magic superstar center Dwight Howard will need back surgery and won’t return the rest of the regular season or the playoffs. Howard also isn’t expected to play in the Summer Olympics with Team USA in London.

After missing the past six games with a herniated disc in his back, Howard was reevaluated on Thursday. Because of the lack of improvement with Howard’s condition, the Magic’s medical staff and California-based spine specialist Dr. Robert Watkins recommended surgery. Magic officials were unsure as of late Thursday whether the arthroscopic procedure will be performed on Friday or Saturday.

The Magic (36-26) have four regular-season games remaining and are hoping to remain in the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. They are three games ahead of seventh-seeded New York with games ahead at Utah (Saturday) and Denver (Sunday), at home against Charlotte (Wednesday) and in Memphis (Thursday).

Howard, a six-time all-star and a five-time All-NBA selection, had been largely a NBA ironman before the season, missing just two games because of injury in the first seven years of his NBA career. But he injured his back in March and the condition was aggravated when he took repeated blows in the back from Dallas center Brendan Haywood.

Howard was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back last Friday. He had been rehabilitating the injury in Orlando in recent days, with little improvement.

Losing Howard is a huge loss for the Magic considering his impact on both ends of the floor. He ranked first in the NBA in rebounding (14.5) and second in field goal percentage (57.3 percent) while averaging 20.6 points a game (12th in the NBA). The biggest loss is not having Howard on the defensive end of the floor. The only player in NBA history to win the Defensive Player of the Year award three straight years, Howard ranked third in the NBA this season in blocks at 2.15 a game.

But the Magic are hoping to survive without their superstar center. Hedo Turkoglu, out two weeks after having surgery to repair three facial fractures, has started conditioning drills and could rejoin the team next week. And Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis has played his best basketball of the season while filling in for Howard.

``What we’re saying right now is that this is our team in the regular season and in the playoffs,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``This is the team that we have and we have to do the things that allow this team to play well. It’s made us have to make some changes and made us strong but our group has been focused on making the adjustments we have to make to be good together.’’

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

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