The Washington Wizards have had a tough start to the NBA season, going 1-6 thus far with the lone win coming in narrow 125-124 fashion over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Wizards need to right the ship sooner than later, and a large part of making that happen will be the return of center Dwight Howard, who’s yet to play this season.
Howard was signed by the Wizards this offseason, addressing a big need for the team. The obvious hope is that Washington has added a player with the upside to dominate inside while playing alongside two top-tier NBA guards in John Wall and Bradley Beal. And after the slow start, his return to the floor can’t come fast enough.
Let’s take a look at the latest on Howard’s status and any news on his potential role when he returns to the floor.
Dwight Howard Set to Debut Friday vs. Thunder
Wizards coach Scott Brooks provided some good news on Howard ahead of the team’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. As ESPN revealed, Brooks made it known Howard’s debut is set for this intriguing early-season matchup. The news comes after the veteran center was able to practice on Thursday with a strained muscle in his buttocks.
Howard is expected to start immediately, which will push Ian Mahinmi to the bench after starting all six games he played in. Over that stretch, Mahinmi averaged 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while playing just 16.8 minutes per game. The Wizards often opted to play small ball instead of using a prototypical center.
Howard’s Role & Comments on Return
Although Howard will play in this game, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington revealed the 32-year-old said he still can’t sit without pain but does feel better than before.
“It just doesn’t go away. It’s a lot better than it was,” he said. “I haven’t even been able to sit down. It hurts to sit down. Every time I get home, I can’t watch a movie sitting down. I’ve gotta lay down on the floor. It’s very painful.”
Howard sounds like he’s just excited to return to the floor and told Hughes that he’s “just looking forward to doing what I can to help this team win.”
As far as his role goes, ESPN revealed that Brooks didn’t shy away from the obvious fact that the Wizards want to get Howard rolling to the rim. The team is also interested in trying to get their big man some mid-range looks as well.
“His strength of his game is rolling. His strength of his game is finishing around the the rim, but he’s also a good mid-range shooter. … He’s going to get his share of those.”
This is Howard’s sixth NBA team and he spent last season with the Charlotte Hornets. The former No. 1 pick in the 2004 NBA Draft averaged 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while playing 81 games in 2017-18.