Although Dwight Howard appeared in only nine games during an injury-ravaged first season with the Washington Wizards, he has decided to return to the franchise next season.
According to a person close to Howard, the center exercised a $5.6 million player option for the second year of his two-year contract. The move was expected as Howard, a 33-year-old veteran, continues to rehabilitate from spinal surgery.
Howard, who averaged 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in his abbreviated season, failed to live up to his Superman moniker after signing with the team last summer. Ernie Grunfeld, who was recently fired as the team’s president of basketball operations, signed Howard with the expectation that he could be the athletic, rebounding big man to round out the starting lineup. However, his back was sore early in training camp, and the condition only worsened. In November, Howard underwent a second surgical procedure on his back since 2012.
The move was first reported by ESPN.
“Nobody can predict the body. You can use all the experts and all the great medical staff that we had, Dwight had, and there’s nothing,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “When we first heard about the news, it was day-to-day. I thought, ‘Okay, worst case he’s going to miss six or seven days of training camp.’ ”
As Howard attempted to return to basketball activities in February he pulled a hamstring and remained on the inactive list as the Wizards completed a 32-50 season.
“He actually played pretty well,” Brooks said, when reviewing Howard’s season. “He wasn’t 100 percent at that time, and he still averaged 13 and nine in low minutes. But it turned for the worst, and he had to do what was best for him. I’m glad he did that because it relieved a lot of the issues that he had. Then coming back from rehab, unfortunately the thing happened that he pulled a hamstring, and that basically shut him [down]. Can’t do nothing about that now. It was nobody’s fault.”
With Howard’s decision to return, the Wizards now have six players under contract on the 2019-20 roster. That group includes backup center Ian Mahinmi, who will enter the final season of his four-year, $64 million contract, and John Wall, who will miss most if not all of next season while working his way back from his Achilles’ tendon injury.