Scott Brooks: 'Safe to Say' Dwight Howard out for Season with Back Injury

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 28, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC -  NOVEMBER 16: Dwight Howard #21 of the Washington Wizards shoots the ball against the Brooklyn Nets on November 16, 2018 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks told reporters "it's pretty safe to say" center Dwight Howard will not come back before the end of the regular season.

The Associated Press reported Nov. 30 that Howard underwent spinal surgery to relieve pain in his glutes. 

The 15-year veteran has appeared in just nine games for the 30-45 Wizards, averaging 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds. He has not played since Nov. 18. 

A Howard return for any of the team's final seven regular-season games would be pointless. The Wizards are still mathematically alive in the playoff race, but one more loss would officially end their postseason chances. Rushing back a 33-year-old big man who's been out for four-and-a-half months would be an irresponsible maneuver.

Instead, the Wizards will look toward next season after a disappointing 2018-19 campaign.

Howard was supposed to help push Washington to another postseason level after the team advanced no further than the first or second round for the past five seasons, but everything went wrong in D.C. 

The team started 2-9 and bled points on the defensive end, allowing at least 134 points on three different occasions. A 9-5 stretch corrected course for a bit, but another 2-9 span dropped the Wizards to 13-23. Washington hasn't drawn closer to .500 since.

Star point guard John Wall underwent season-ending heel surgery before he suffered a ruptured left Achilles in a slip at his home. He's supposed to resume full basketball activity in Feb. 2020, but he's not guaranteed to return by the end of next season.

Markieff Morris suffered a neck injury and sat out a couple of months. Howard will have missed 73 games by the time the season is over. The Wizards traded Otto Porter Jr. two seasons after they inked him to a four-year, $106 million deal.

Washington should have a draft pick in the upcoming lottery, but it will need some luck to grab a top pick and obtain either of the top two prospects: Duke's Zion Williamson or Murray State's Ja Morant. Plus, the Wizards already have close to $90 million committed to the 2019-20 cap even if they decline Jabari Parker's $20 million player option, so improving through free agency will be difficult.

The future looks bleak in D.C.