News and Notes: March 19, 2014

Dwight Howard likely out Thursday, clearing way for Omer Asik's second straight start
by Jason Friedman Writer/Reporter

HOUSTON - The Rockets returned to the practice court Wednesday afternoon, going through a spirited workout session in preparation for tomorrow’s matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Dwight Howard did not take part in the practice and is not expected to play Thursday due to a left ankle strain. The eight-time All-Star underwent an MRI on his ailing ankle Tuesday, confirming the diagnosis and revealing a cyst that Howard said had been causing him discomfort over the past couple weeks.

“(The doctors) did some work on it yesterday,” Howard revealed Wednesday. They got some of the fluid out. The cyst caused some problems, caused a lot of pain that I’ve been feeling for about two-and-a-half weeks, and after the Miami game I couldn’t walk. So I just wanted to make sure everything was ok with it and that’s when I found out I had a cyst. We got some of that removed … and I feel a lot better today.”

Howard said he was told that the cyst was a result of “wear and tear” and that it was not considered serious, nor did he expect it to be a long-term issue, adding that he hopes to return to action Saturday when the Rockets travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers.

Assuming Howard is not available for Thursday’s contest against the Timberwolves, Omer Asik would receive his second straight start at the center position. Asik, of course, delivered a double-double-performance Monday night during the Rockets’ romp of Utah, duplicating the kind of production he consistently gave his club last year prior to Howard’s arrival. His teammates obviously are well familiar with what he brings to the court, and have been adamant all week in their insistence that very little about the team’s game plan needs to be tweaked with the 27-year-old Turk manning the middle and anchoring the defense.

“Nothing changes,” said James Harden. “Omer was our starting center last year, he knows what he’s doing and he’s one of the best centers in the league.”

Jeremy Lin was even more blunt in his appraisal. “People are afraid to go in and challenge both of them,” he said of Houston’s unique 1-2 punch at the center position. “I don’t think anyone thinks, ‘Ooh, we’re going to go pick on Omer tonight.’ Or if they do, they’re dumb.”


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