Having undergone surgery on his back, Dwight Howard will not only miss the rest of this season and the playoffs, but also won't rejoin the team in Orlando over the next few weeks, according to coach Stan Van Gundy.
Van Gundy told reporters (including Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel) today that Howard would remain in the Los Angeles area to rehab, since both Howard's camp and the team decided it would be impractical to fly back and forth across the country (Twitter links). Asked why D12 couldn't simply fly to Orlando and rehab there, the Magic coach said Howard requires frequent checkups by doctors in L.A. (Twitter link). Robbins acknowledges that the plan seems a little strange, and suggests it will fuel speculation that Howard is estranged from the team (Twitter link).
The latest on Howard's estrangement from the rest of the Magic comes from ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, who says Howard felt like the organization and teammates didn't have his back after a report indicated he'd quit on the team. Smith expects Howard to ask to be traded out of Orlando "the minute this season is over" and doesn't anticipate "any flip-flopping" from the star center this time.
Whether or not Howard makes another trade request this summer, it certainly won't be an ideal time for Orlando to move him. Howard is unlikely to be fully recovered from his back surgery yet, so interested teams may be wary of his health. Additionally, I expect Van Gundy to be replaced this summer, and you'd think the Magic would like to see Howard coexist with the new coach before they consider dealing their superstar.