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Wizards-Heat preview: Josh Howard could return, adding another veteran to lineup

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 18, 2010; 12:27 AM

Josh Howard could make his long-anticipated season debut on Saturday against the Miami Heat.

Howard, a 30-year-old former all-star forward, has been out of action since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last February, cutting short a four-game stint after arriving from Dallas in a trade deadline deal.

"I'm looking forward to coming back. I enjoyed my four games playing here last season and hopefully, I can shake the rust off and get back to being the old Josh Howard," he said.

Howard has been practicing with the team for nearly a month and visited a doctor on Friday. If granted clearance, Howard said he expects to play about 20 minutes against the Heat.

No matter how much he plays, Howard's return would be a welcome addition for the struggling Wizards (6-18), a team that has lost six games in a row and will likely play its 10th game without No. 1 overall pick John Wall, who continues to be sidelined with right knee tendinitis. It will also provide the Wizards with a seven-year veteran who already knows what several of his teammates are trying to learn.

"It's not an excuse, but it's a rebuilding year, but you just try to stay with it," Howard said. "Those guys are fighting hard to learn the program. I still expect good things. We're only 24 games into this thing and it could be a quick turnaround."

Guard Kirk Hinrich, who along with Gilbert Arenas is the only player with at least six years of experience to play for the Wizards this season, adding a veteran such as Howard could get the team moving in the right direction.

"It can be tough at times. Especially when we're losing," Hinrich said. "We've talked about it, collectively, as the older guys; we can't get frustrated because it's not going to help any. The whole organization is being patient and we have to be patient, as well. It's one of those things where, hopefully, it's going to start clicking and guys are going to start picking things up, and we'll be able to become a better defensive team, better offensive team, and ultimately win more games."

Andray Blatche will also be a game-time decision against Miami after missing four of the past five games with a left hip contusion and later a swollen left knee. Rookies Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin have gotten more playing time in the absence of Blatche, a five-year veteran who ranks as the Wizards' most experienced front-court player, and his backup Yi Jianlian, who is out for two to four weeks with a sprained right medial collateral ligament.

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