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Western Notes: Howard, Thunder, Nuggets

The Rockets expect to have Dwight Howard back on the court soon, tweets Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston. Howard hopes to play on the upcoming road trip, either Monday in Indiana or Wednesday in New Orleans. Howard said, “That’s a big step” when told his status had been updated from out to doubtful for the Pacers game. (Twitter link). Howard said he hasn’t “circled a day” for his return, but told Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, “It’s going to depend on how I feel … after the workout I just had.” (Twitter link). Coach Kevin McHale offered little indication about Howard’s return, saying, “As I said to you, I’ll talk to you about (Howard) when I see him out on the floor with us.” (Twitter link). Howard has been sidelined since January 23rd because of ongoing pain in his right knee.

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • It’s time for the Thunder to shift their focus toward next season, argues Michael Lee of The Washington Post. With fears that Kevin Durant is done for the season and the reigning MVP’s free agency a little more than a year away, Lee contends Oklahoma City’s urgency has already moved to 2015/16. With Serge Ibaka‘s status also uncertain after undergoing knee surgery, Lee’s advice to the Thunder is to avoid rushing Durant back and save him for a run at the title next season.
  • With all the bad news surrounding the Thunder, Dion Waiters is providing some hope, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman. Waiters broke a long shooting slump Friday with 26 points in a win over the Hawks, giving the Thunder the boost they hoped for when they acquired him from Cleveland in a three-team deal in early January. “He’s a good player,” said coach Scott Brooks. “I told him we’re just going to have to keep working with you.” 
  • The Nuggets are making no effort to hide their intentions to tank, charges Brian K. Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel.  Far out of the Western Conference playoff race, Denver has been “resting” healthy starters, Schmitz claims, and has little interest in picking up late-season wins that might harm its draft position. The Nuggets rank eighth in Hoops Rumors’ Reverse Standings.
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