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Howard to make debut with Wizards tonight vs. Thunder

* Tonight on ESPN: Thunder vs. Wizards, 8 ET

At long last, the Washington Wizards will have Dwight Howard in the lineup.

Howard has missed training camp, the preseason and every game to date with gluteal soreness, but he has been cleared to play Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In addition to Howard being back in the lineup, Washington will also have Markieff Morris back as well. Morris missed the Wizards’ last game (a 107-95 loss to Memphis) after entering the NBA’s concussion protocol on Sunday.

Coach Scott Brooks said he is unsure how many minutes Howard will play, but he is planning on starting the big man against OKC. The Wizards added Howard via free agency in perhaps their biggest move of the offseason.

“I’ve been feeling pretty good,” Howard said after practice Thursday. ”I’m just looking forward to doing what I can to help this team win. … I just think if I play my game, we should have a good opportunity to win. On the defensive end, it’s going to ball of us. We’ve got to do a good job collectively of playing defense.”

The Wizards are mired in a 1-6 start after their loss to Grizzlies. Defense has been an issue for Washington as it ranks 27th in rebounds per game (41.3), 21st in opponent field goal percentage (47 percent), 25th in Defensive Rating (114.1) and 21st in opponent effective field goal percentage (54 percent).

Veteran Ian Mahinmi has served as the Wizards’ starting center to date, averaging 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in 16.8 minutes per game. Fellow veteran Jason Smith and youngster Thomas Bryant have also seen minutes at center so far this season.

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).

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.