Dwight Howard to Begin On-Court Work After Surgery on Spine Injury

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2019

Washington Wizards center Dwight Howard looks at the scoreboard during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Al Drago)
Al Drago/Associated Press

Washington Wizards big man Dwight Howard has played just nine games this season, but he is reportedly taking steps toward a comeback heading into the stretch run. 

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, Howard will start on-court work Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Charania noted Howard underwent surgery on his spine in November has been rehabbing in Atlanta.

Howard is one of the best centers of his generation and has three Defensive Player of the Year awards, eight All-NBA selections, five All-Defensive selections and eight All-Star Game nods on his resume, but he is past his prime at 33 years old and averaged just 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds a night in his first nine games in a Wizards uniform.

Between Howard's injury and John Wall being ruled out for the rest of the season with a heel injury, Washington has struggled to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

It is just 24-34 and three games behind the Detroit Pistons for the No. 8 seed. One reason for the poor record is a lackluster defense that is 26th in the league in defensive rating, per NBA.com.

While Howard is no longer the dominant force he was on the Orlando Magic, he would bolster the Wizards' interior defense and improve that number. He averaged 1.6 blocks per game last season on the Charlotte Hornets and held opponents to 4.6 percent worse shooting than their normal averages within six feet of the basket when he guarded them, per NBA.com.

Even with the injury concerns and poor play to the All-Star break, Washington is still alive in the playoff race. Howard's potential return would provide a critical boost to a struggling defense as it chases the Pistons and others.

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