Dwight Howard has not played in a game for the Rockets since January 23, when he played just under nine minutes against Phoenix. He’s had a bone marrow aspirate procedure in early February and was expected to be re-evaluated four weeks after that date. Things have progressed positively as his rehab work has now included on-court basketball activities.
Houston has been forced to play without power forward Terrence Jones for the last two games because of pneumothorax (partially collapsed lung) and no definitive time table has been given for his return. Following the Rockets 110-100 win over the Pacers, Rockets head coach Kevin McHale made it sound like the Rockets next game is at New Orleans on Wednesday and it could be Howard’s next game too.
“We’re so down on bodies. We don’t have a lot of practice time. We may just have to start throwing him out there & let him get some minutes in the game, whether he starts off at 15 or 20 minutes, you know just get game time,” McHale said. “He’s gotta start playing here pretty soon, otherwise the season is just going to go by and you can’t wait for the playoffs to come back. So, we’ll see.”
Howard has missed 38 games this season and while Houston has gone a remarkable 25-13 in those games, Houston has been getting out-rebounded regularly, including by a 40-35 margin by the Pacers on Monday night. Houston is 22-10 in the 32 games that Howard has played. He’s averaging 16.3 points and 11.0 rebounds per game this season.
Josh Smith, has been spending much of his time playing center in Howard’s absence, but he, too, is among the walking wounded, playing through a right ankle sprain against the Pacers. Smith had 18 points on 4-of-6 3-pointers and five rebounds in just under 29 minutes off the bench in the win.
Houston has 12 games remaining, including six of their next eight on the road.