Los Angeles Lakers star Dwight Howard recently told sources that his back is at “85 percent,” according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. While 85 percent of Dwight Howard is better than most big men in the NBA at 100 percent, rushing him back on the court could lead him down a path similar to that of Amare Stoudemire.
Howard went under the knife five months ago to repair a herniated disc that prematurely ended his tumultuous 2011-12 season with the Orlando Magic.
He has yet to be medically cleared for contact or to go all-out in practice. He has not participated in any five-on-five drills and he’s not expected to be a full participant in training camp.
It’s understandable why Howard wants to play.
He’s part of one of the most talented teams in the league, he’s a competitor and he’s in a contract year—but can we really expect him to be ready for the grind of NBA action in just over four weeks?
We can expect it, but it’s unrealistic.
Howard can say his back feels “85 percent” right now, but that’s 85 percent without any real basketball being played. It’s a completely different animal when he’s fighting for position down low, trying to box out for a rebound and running the floor.
How will his back react to contact, to landing with the full force of his 265 pounds on the hardwood? How will it react when he goes airborne to grab a board or block a shot and has to twist and turn to adjust to the ball?
Nobody knows, and that’s where the danger lies in having him play on opening night.
I can’t help but see the connection to Amare Stoudemire, who while he had a myriad of other issues, is a talented big man who has seen his game drop precipitously because of a bad back.
It's gotten to the point where an argument can be made as to whether both he and the team aren't best served by Stoudemire coming off the Knicks’ bench at this point.
Look, Dwight Howard is a superior player to Stoudemire, there's no question of that.
But Howard hasn't played in a game since April 7. He's going to be rusty.
The Lakers are a talented team, and they can succeed without Howard for the first few games of the season.
Both he and the Lakers need to proceed with extreme caution, not putting his surgically repaired back in harm’s way until it is absolutely, unquestionably ready for the abuse.
Dwight Howard might think that he’s Superman, but even the Man of Steel had a weakness.
For rushing Howard into action makes his back his kryptonite and Stoudemire his doppelganger.