If he could have a do-over, Josh Howard might have waited a month or so before making his season debut. He could’ve held out until he was completely confident and comfortable in his surgically-repaired left knee, which may have kept this season from being a frustrating series of false starts.
“But I think either way, as far as the tendinitis coming, with that piece being taken out of your patella tendon, it’s prone to happen. It’s neither here nor there,” Howard said on Friday morning.
Howard appeared in 18 games with the Wizards this season, averaging a career-low 8.4 points, and was never able to develop a rhythm during this stop-and-go season -- until nagging tendinitis forced it to come to a premature end. He missed the first 24 games, played seven, missed one, played one, missed 19 more, played eight more, missed three, played two, and will miss the final 17.
“I knew it would come with the territory,” he said. “The injury I had was a freak accident. I did a lot of research as far as the recovery time and things like that, I kind of expected what happened. I was fortunate to come back as early as I did, just to know that the tendinitis would be what hindered me. That’s the part that [stinks].”
Coach Flip Saunders said Howard’s absence was felt this season. “Just because of his leadership. I’m taking about a guy who is an all-star. The games that he played last year, he played well for us, and even when he started working out for us, we were a little juiced and it was different. I think it’s tough. The other thing, what we had to do all year, work guys in and out. It was disappointing. But he’s working hard and hopefully, he can get his knee better.”
Howard won’t need any more surgeries or PRP shots, as he had in January, but he decided to just shut himself down after playing 11 ineffective minutes against Oklahoma City on March 14. “It was me, personally, knowing that I have a whole lot more left in my career,” Howard said of the decision. “I think I got over the hump. If we had one more month of basketball, I’d be able to play again.”
While their teammates prepared for the Boston Celtics, Howard and Rashard Lewis were doing some stretching exercises with Wizards rehabilitation coordinator and assistant athletic trainer Koichi Sato. Howard said his focus this offseason will be about getting healthy. “All I can look for is great things. It was a rough season, but I seen a lot of good positives that make we want to come back and be a contributor to this team. Just staying positive with myself, working with my knee, knowing that I’m going to get an opportunity to come back and play, here, or if not here, somebody else will probably give me a chance. That’s all I live off of, is that opportunity.”
Although his time in Washington has been mired by problems with his left knee, Howard said he still wants to continue his career with the Wizards. The development of the Wizards’ young talent, and the effort they have displayed in recent weeks only solidify his desires to return.
“Guys continue to play hard and that’s all you can ask for is that guys play hard and not to quit on the season and I think that three-game winning streak is proof of that,” Howard said. “I hope we can take the things that we’ve done at the end of the season and carry it over to the beginning of the season, training camp -- if we have a training camp. I hope these guys have a good summer because I already know what I have to as a player, I know I have to get my knee right and just come back ready to play.”
He also wants to give his supporters in Washington a reason to cheer again. “It’s a city that stays behind their teams. I like that about Washington. They always support their teams, no matter what and they are always going to voice their opinions on their teams,” he said. “It’s good to have fans like that, and I like that. That’s one of the main reasons I want to come back, to prove all the naysayers wrong, and actually have a chance to get on the 6 o’clock news before Georgetown.”