Dwight Howard

Atlantic Notes: Howard, Celtics, Kurucs, Knicks

Former Lakers center Dwight Howard was asked this week about whether impending free agent Kawhi Leonard should consider the team in free agency, with Howard quickly shutting down the idea in favor of Leonard’s current situation in Toronto.

“I don’t know if [the Lakers] are the draw anymore,” Howard said Thursday on ‘First Things First’ on Fox Sports 1, as relayed by Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “I think now guys understand that in the era that we live in, the social media age, you can play anywhere and get attention.”

Howard, who was traded to the Lakers in the summer of 2012, spent just one tumultuous season in Los Angeles and quickly became disliked by many fans of the organization. He believes that Leonard should prioritize re-signing with the Raptors when free agency opens on June 30.

“To me, I think he should stay in Toronto,” Howard said. “Because he took the team to the Finals. If he wins, why would he go anywhere else?”

Along with Leonard, the Raptors also have the situations of Danny Green (unrestricted) and Marc Gasol ($25.6MM player option) to address this summer. Leonard has long been linked to the Clippers as a free-agent target, but Toronto may have the slight advantage coming off their first NBA championship.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division today:

  • The Celtics’ plans have been altered in the wake of the Lakers-Pelicans trade for Anthony Davis, Jay King of The Athletic writes. Boston suddenly has an unclear future, dominated by the fact that star guard Kyrie Irving could leave the team in free agency and sign elsewhere. The team is also awaiting a decision from Al Horford, who must inform the franchise of whether he plans to exercise his $30.1MM player option for the 2019/20 season.
  • Nets forward Rodions Kurucs is planning on playing summer league with the team, he told Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “My focus this summer is just working on my game, my all-around game, my handle, my shot, defense, rebounding, physicality for sure,” Kurucs said. “Everything, basically, because I will need them next season.” Kurucs is coming off a rookie season where he averaged 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 20.5 minutes in 63 games.
  • Aside from the Warriors themselves, the Knicks are one of the biggest losers from Golden State’s strange NBA Finals run, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Major injuries to potential targets Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant have hurt the potential of the 2019 free agent class, leaving some to wonder what kind of contracts teams will offer the two All-Star players on the open market. New York still hasn’t backed away from the idea of signing Durant to a four-year, $141MM deal if he opts out from his final season in Golden State, according to Berman.

Wizards’ Dwight Howard Opts In For 2019/20

In an unsurprising move, Dwight Howard has picked up his 2019/20 player option, opting in for next season, reports ESPN’s Zach Lowe (via Twitter). The decision ensures that the Wizards center locks in his $5,603,850 salary for ’19/20.

Howard, 33, signed a two-year deal with the Wizards last summer after spending his previous three seasons with three different teams in Houston, Atlanta, and Charlotte. Having used the full taxpayer mid-level exception to sign him, Washington viewed Howard as its major offseason addition, but the big man’s stint in D.C. hasn’t gone as planned.

Sidelined by spinal surgery for most of the 2018/19 season, Howard also injured his hamstring during his rehab and was ultimately limited to just nine games. He was reasonably effective when he saw the court, averaging 12.8 PPG and 9.2 RPG in 25.6 minutes per contest as the Wizards’ starting center, but the question marks surrounding his health ensured that he wouldn’t land a contract on the open market this offseason worth more than his $5.6MM option.

With Howard back in the fold, the Wizards are now on the hook for approximately $89.5MM in guaranteed salaries for 2019/20, per Basketball Insiders. That doesn’t include potential contracts for free agents like Tomas Satoransky, Bobby Portis, Trevor Ariza, Thomas Bryant, or Jeff Green. It also doesn’t account for Jabari Parker‘s $20MM team option, though that’s a lock to be declined.

Portis and Bryant are both eligible for restricted free agency this summer, so it will be interesting to see how the Wizards handle their situations, given the team’s limited financial flexibility and the fact that veteran centers Howard and Ian Mahinmi are entering contract years.

Howard is the sixth player so far to exercise a 2019/20 player option or confirm that he plans to do so. The full list can be found right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dwight Howard Won’t Return; Focus Moves To Player Option

Dwight Howard played just nine games in his first season with the Wizards, and the team would probably prefer that there won’t be a second one, writes Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington.

The two-year, $11MM contract Howard signed last summer includes a $5.6MM player option for next season. It appears Washington would rather have the cap flexibility than another year of Howard, especially with the team already well stocked at center.

Thomas Bryant has stepped in as the starter and has enjoyed a breakthrough season. Bobby Portis, who was acquired in a deal with the Bulls last month, has been an effective backup in smaller lineups. They will be restricted free agents this summer and the Wizards would like to re-sign both of them. Washington will also be paying $15.45MM to Ian Mahinmi, who will be entering the final year of his four-year, $64MM contract.

The idea of Howard opting out and testing the free agent market at age 33 after an injury-plagued season is far from a sure thing. He has moved around the league since being traded out of Orlando in 2012 and has changed teams in each of the past three offseasons.

Howard’s physical problems began in November, leading to surgery on his back, then he suffered a hamstring injury while trying to return. He rejoined the team in for non-contact drills in late February, but never seemed close to being cleared for game action.

Eastern Notes: Magic, Howard, Hayward

Nikola Vucevic is in his seventh season with the Magic and he has yet to see the postseason with the club.

“In past years, this time of year we’d already be planning our vacations, unfortunately,’’ said Vucevic, who will be a free agent at the end of the year (via John Denton of NBA.com). “It’s much different now and much more fun. As a basketball player and a competitor, you want to be in this situation, fight for something, play for something and be in the big moments. So, it’s up to us to respond.’’

Orlando entered the day just one game behind the Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Vucevic, who made his first All-Star game this season has been a major reason why the playoffs are in reach. The big man prides himself on his consistency.

“Being able to sustain a certain level of play is important for individuals and teams,” Vucevic said. “For us, that’s been the biggest issue. When play well, we’re very good and when we don’t, we struggle. But for me personally, [consistency] is something I take a lot of pride in, and throughout my career I feel like I’ve been able to show that when I’m out on the court, you know what you’re going to get from me.’’

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic coach Steve Clifford believes Vucevic’s stability and smarts are two things that set him apart from other centers, as Denton adds in the same piece. “It’s invaluable to have anybody else on the floor who can do that other than your point guard, particularly a center who can play like that,” Clifford said. “In many ways, when he’s out there, it’s like playing with two point guards.’’
  • The Wizards have yet to rule out Dwight Howard out for the season, though head coach Scott Brooks says the big man isn’t over his injury woes yet, as Candace Buckner of the Washington Post passes along on Twitter. “He’s still getting his work in — the hamstring problem has not turned the corner,” Brooks said.
  • Gordon Hayward remains in the early stages of the league’s concussion protocol, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets. Coach Brad Stevens called Hayward doubtful for the Celtics‘ game on Wednesday but left the door open for him to play on Saturday against Charlotte.

Dwight Howard Experiences Setback During Rehab

Dwight Howard suffered a “minor setback” while rehabilitating his back injury, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said today (Twitter link via Fred Katz of The Athletic). According to Brooks, the veteran center – who has been doing non-contact drills in Washington – tweaked his hamstring.

With the Wizards technically still in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, three games behind the eighth-seeded Magic, there’s some incentive to get Howard back in the lineup before the end of the season. However, a Washington playoff berth and a Howard return both appear increasingly unlikely. The 33-year-old hasn’t played since November 18 and wasn’t taking contact even before his setback.

Assuming Howard is unable to make it back this season, he’ll finish his first year in D.C. having appeared in just nine games, with averages of 12.8 PPG and 9.2 RPG.

The former first overall pick has a 2019/20 player option worth approximately $5.6MM, which looks like a good bet to be exercised. After his lost ’18/19 season, Howard likely wouldn’t be able to match that salary on the open market if he were to opt out.

With Howard still on the shelf, the Wizards will continue to rely on Bobby Portis as their starting center, with Thomas Bryant earning minutes off the bench.

Injury Updates: Howard, Capela, Dinwiddie, Hayward

The Wizards‘ big free agent signing of the 2018 offseason hasn’t worked out as planned so far, as health issues have limited Dwight Howard to just nine games this season. However, Howard – who underwent surgery on his spine in November, appears to be making progress toward a return.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter), Howard is scheduled to return to Washington today to begin on-court work. With the Wizards’ playoff hopes on life support, the team could use the veteran center back in its lineup to provide rebounding and low-post scoring down the stretch. As Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington notes though, it’s still not clear whether Howard is ready to participate in full practices or when he might be able to play in a game.

Here are a few more injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Rockets center Clint Capela returned to practice on Tuesday after missing 15 games with a thumb injury, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com. According to MacMahon, Capela is on track to get back in Houston’s lineup on Thursday, assuming he doesn’t have any setbacks this week.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, who continues to recover from a thumb injury of his own, still doesn’t have a set timeline for his return, according to Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. As Brian Lewis of The New York Post details, Atkinson wouldn’t confirm that he expects Dinwiddie back on the court for Brooklyn’s upcoming 17-day road trip, which begins on March 13.
  • Gordon Hayward twisted his ankle in a Tuesday workout, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said today to reporters, including Adam Kaufman of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link). While that sounds like concerning news on the surface, particularly given Hayward’s strong recent play, Kaufman notes that the injury is to the forward’s right ankle, not his surgically repaired left ankle. He’s considered day-to-day.

Southeast Notes: Waiters, Howard, Walker, Randle

Heat guard Dion Waiters was cleared for a full-contact practice this week, his first full session since undergoing ankle surgery in January, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

When asked whether Waiters could return by the end of the calendar year, coach Erik Spoelstra delivered a blunt assessment.

“I don’t know. Basically right now, it’s day-by-day evaluations,” Spoelstra said. “But he’s doing a lot more on the court, which is good.”

Waiters has missed Miami’s first 30 games this season, working to get back to 100 percent and improve his conditioning. The Heat mostly kept his status and progression quiet up until Tuesday, when news suddenly broke of his full participation at practice.

“It’s very encouraging,” teammate Dwyane Wade said on Tuesday. “I think today was the first day that we were on the same unit. He has so much talent. He’s one of the guys that playing against him, I’ve seen the talent that he has on both ends of the floor. Then, obviously, I watched him when he was here and he was healthy, and he played very well.

“You want him to get back healthy, understanding that he can definitely help us with his ability to score the basketball, to make plays and to defend. It’s going to take him a while to get to where he wants to get to, but he’s getting closer each day. It’s good to see him out there.”

Waiters, 27, was a key cog in the Heat’s late season run two years ago. He’ll provide the team with a much-needed boost of energy upon his return after it was revealed Goran Dragic would miss two months with a knee injury, further depleting the club of ball-handlers.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Wizards center Dwight Howard shared his first health update since undergoing back surgery, explaining his improvements to NBC Sports’ Chris Miller. “Physically, I’m a lot better than I was before the surgery,” Howard said. “The nine games I played, I basically played on one leg. So, you know, I’m just happy that that’s out the way and I can rehab and get ready for the second half of the season.” The Wizards could greatly benefit from Howard’s return, with the team just 12-20 on the season and 4-6 in their last 10 games.
  • Hornets guard Kemba Walker remains focused on improving his team, despite the mass speculation about his upcoming free agency. “That’s just how it is. I know how it goes,” Walker told Jeremy Woo of the Crossover. “It’s something I try not to think about. There’s nothing I can do about it right now. I don’t know my future at this point.” Walker will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
  • Despite his one-year deal with the Wizards being non-guaranteed, Chasson Randle is excited for his new opportunity to play in Washington. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Randle told Candace Buckner of the Washington Post on Tuesday. “I’m in Atlanta playing for the Wizards. It’s just awesome to be here.” Randle, who went undrafted in 2015, held NBA experience with the Sixers and Knicks before joining the Wizards. He signed his contract with the team on Tuesday.

Southeast Notes: Williams, Howard, Whiteside, Clifford

Hornets forward Marvin Williams has a right shoulder strain, an MRI on Monday confirmed, according to a team press release. Williams suffered the injury on Sunday and will be re-evaluated next week. Lottery pick Miles Bridges, who scored a career-high 16 points in 29 minutes against New Orleans, will see his role expand during Williams’ absence. Williams is averaging 8.3 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 24.8 MPG.

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards center Dwight Howard is more likely to exercise his player option for next season after undergoing surgery last week, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington notes. Howard underwent a spinal procedure to correct a gluteal ailment and will be sidelined for two to three months. He has a $5.6MM option and if he exercises it, it’d likely push the Wizards further over the projected cap. Washington already has $111MM in salary guarantees to just five players next season.
  • Heat center Hassan Whiteside has often been out of the late-game mix, David Wilson of the Miami Herald reports. Prior to his 23-point, 20-rebound outburst against Utah on Sunday, Whiteside had not played more than 25 minutes in the team’s previous four games.
  • Prior health scares related to a lack of sleep has caused lifestyle changes for Magic coach Steve Clifford, as Shaun Powell of NBA.com details. Clifford now gets a normal amount of sleep and he feels he can now more effectively perform his job. “I feel great, I feel like I have a lot more energy,” he told Powell. “Getting seven hours every night, I find that very relaxing. I’ve developed other interests.”

Dwight Howard Undergoes Surgery, Out 2-3 Months

12:49pm: Howard has undergone an L4-L5 lumbar microdiscectomy, the Wizards confirmed in a press release. According to the team, he’ll be re-evaluated in approximately two to three months.

10:23am: Howard will undergo surgery, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports confirms. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) the procedure will be on the L4/L5 discs in Howard’s spine.

Howard hopes to return to the court within eight weeks, Charania adds. Haynes suggests a possible two-to-three month timeline, though he acknowledges that the big man could return sooner than that.

12:17am: Wizards center Dwight Howard will likely require surgery to provide relief from a gluteal injury that has kept him out of action for much of his first season in Washington, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Previous reports had indicated that Howard was scheduled to visit a nerve specialist this week, and according to Wojnarowski, that specialist recommended a surgical procedure. If the eight-time All-Star undergoes surgery, he’d be sidelined for a significant portion of the 2018/19 season, so he may seek a second opinion before making any final decisions, writes Wojnarowski.

Howard, who will turn 33 in December, signed a two-year, $10.94MM deal (second-year player option) with Washington during the offseason after being bought out by the Nets. He was expected to provide much-needed rebounding and rim protection for the Wizards, who traded former starting center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers in June. However, Howard has been limited to nine games so far, chipping in 12.8 PPG and 9.2 RPG in just 25.6 minutes per contest.

If Howard remains on the shelf for the foreseeable future, Washington will likely continue to start Thomas Bryant at the five, frequently using smaller lineups in which Markieff Morris serves as the de facto center. Veterans Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith also provide a little depth up front.

Although they’re off to a disappointing 8-13 start, the Wizards are just 1.5 games out of the playoff race and could look to add frontcourt reinforcements at some point via trades or free agency.

The Wizards could also potentially apply for a disabled player exception if Howard is ruled out for the rest of 2018/19, but there’s no indication that this procedure would be a season-ending one. We’ll have to wait for further updates to get a clearer sense of how Howard’s injury will be treated and how long his recovery might take.

Southeast Notes: Howard, Bazemore, Vucevic, Lamb

Wizards center Dwight Howard is visiting a nerve specialist in Los Angeles to get a second opinion on his strained lower piriformis, according to Chris Miller of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link). Howard has missed the team’s past five games with the injury.

It’s unclear how much longer Howard will be sidelined, but the Wizards’ need for a strong frontcourt piece is clear. The team signed Howard to a two-year deal in free agency with hopes that he could replace Marcin Gortat, doing the dirty work such as setting screens and controlling the glass on both ends of the floor.

Howard, 32, has averaged 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in nine games this season, seeing a career-low 25.6 minutes per contest. The Wizards have primarily started Thomas Bryant in his absence, struggling to start the season with a consistent effort at 8-13.

Washington holds a 4-5 record with Howard active and a 4-8 record with him inactive this season. The team could look to flip contracts for younger pieces and future assets if it continues to struggle, especially if Howard is set to miss extended time.

There’s more from the Southeast Division: