By the time the snow melts and airplanes can once again safely land, the Washington Wizards should see a familiar face inside their practice facility.
Dwight Howard, the 33-year-old center who has appeared in nine games this NBA season, is expected to return to Washington on Thursday for his first on-court workouts since undergoing spinal surgery in November. Howard had intended to arrive Wednesday for the team’s first practice following the all-star break, but his flight from Atlanta was canceled because of weather,.
When the weather clears, Howard will continue his months-long rehabilitation under the supervision of Wizards’ coaches and training staff. Howard will not practice with teammates right away, and his return to game action does not appear imminent.
“It’s exciting to have him back. This is a long process for him. He’s done all the work that he’s had to do, and now the next step is to get on the court,” Coach Scott Brooks said Wednesday night. “Don’t know how long that’s going to be before he can participate in a game. That’s not our concern right now. Our concern is just to get him some good work every day and let those days pile up on one another and see where it takes us.”
Brooks expressed a similar sentiment before the break when he revealed that Howard planned on joining the team soon, although he could not pinpoint when the center would play in a game.
Howard signed a two-year deal, including a player option, with the Wizards last summer to provide rebounding and athleticism at the starting five position, but he showed up to training camp with back soreness. The injury was later determined to be a herniated disk, which caused gluteal pain.
Howard last played Nov. 18, appearing for less than eight minutes in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers before the pain became too much to bear. Before the end of that month, Howard had a lumbar microdiscectomy and has spent the majority of the time since in his hometown of Atlanta. Howard averaged 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds during his limited time with the Wizards this season.
“You know, the nine games I played, I basically played on one leg,” Howard told reporters Dec. 18. “I’m just happy to get that out the way, get stronger and come back and dominate.”
Before trying to “dominate,” Howard must first take baby steps. Howard needed almost three months to get back on the court, and even his upcoming work will seem rather rudimentary at the start.
“When I say ‘on the court,’ it’s literally on the court and working with a coach with no coach guarding,” Brooks said. “It’s one-on-zero just to get a feel for the ball and get some shots up and some moves around the basket. We’re going to progress at a pace that we have in place. We don’t know how fast it’s going to be. Everybody’s different. Everybody’s body is different. Obviously, he’s important to us. We’d love to have him back, but it’s going to be — I don’t know, it’s going to be day-to-day and see how he feels and it’s probably going to be some time.”
Besides Howard, starting center Thomas Bryant did not make it back to Washington in time for the Wednesday night practice because his return flight was canceled as well.
Tomas Satoransky’s little all-star
Tomas Satoransky missed the last two games before the all-star break because of what the team described as “personal reasons.” On Wednesday, Satoransky finally announced the very good reason behind his departure: He and his wife, Anna, welcomed a baby girl named Sofia.
“You guys know what happened,” Satoransky said, playing coy with reporters. “Yeah, obviously, I became a father right before break. So it was great timing though. You know, I could spend all the time with my family. I mean, words can’t describe the feeling. So it was huge for me. Very emotional. But I’m looking forward to getting back to work and finishing the season strong.”
Satoransky doesn’t need to look far within the locker room to get some advice on fatherhood. Bradley Beal and Ian Mahinmi added to their families over the summer.
“I can have a lot of help here because a lot of guys around the team are fathers,” Satoransky said. “Multiple fathers, like Ian and Jeff [Green], so I’m definitely going to ask them for something if I need anything. But they just congratulated me and felt happy for me, so that’s great.”
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