The Washington Wizards received some good news ahead of their matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. After a 1-6 start to the season which has left the team looking for answers, they at least have some help on the way. The Wizards will have offseason signing Dwight Howard on the floor for this game, marking the official debut with his new team.
ESPN first revealed the news, which came from head coach Scott Brooks. Howard was able to practice on Thursday after missing the first seven games of the year with a strained muscle in his buttocks. While his return is certainly a big deal, it’s unknown how many minutes he’ll play, but the veteran center should provide an immediate spark.
To this point in the season, the Wizards have primarily started Ian Mahinmi at center. He’s drawn six starts with the other one going to Jason Smith in a game Mahinmi missed. Brooks has opted to play small-ball lineups more often than not to this point, though, as Mahinmi averages just 16.8 minutes per game.
Let’s take a look at how the Wizards’ starting lineup is projected to look Friday against the Thunder.
Wizards’ Projected Starting Lineup and Roster vs. Thunder
*Notates projected starter
C: Dwight Howard*, Ian Mahinmi, Thomas Bryant
PF: Markieff Morris*, Jason Smith
SF: Otto Porter Jr.*, Kelly Oubre, Jeff Green, Troy Brown Jr.
SG: Bradley Beal*, Tomas Satoransky, Jordan McRae
PG: John Wall*, Austin Rivers
It’s expected Howard will enter the starting lineup right out of the gate, but as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington revealed, he’s still dealing with quite a bit of pain at this point.
“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.”
Of the Wizards’ seven games, they’ve seen Wall, Beal and Porter start each of them, with Morris starting six while missing one game due to injury. Green has also drawn one start, taking Morris’ place during his absence. The Wizards are likely to stick with this starting group throughout the bulk of the 2018-19 NBA season. Now, the hope is that the group can flip the script on what’s been a slow start to this point.