Dwight Howard Needs Surgery, Out For The Year
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is scheduled to have surgery on Friday on a herniated disk in his back and will miss the remainder of the 2011-2012 season as a result.
ESPN’s Ric Bucher was the first to report the story.
Howard, who averaged 20 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks a game this year, missed eight of the last 10 games because of the same injury. After further evaluation, two doctors confirmed that surgery was his best option. Howard will be able to start rehabbing right away and will be back to practicing with full contact in four months. This is the first serious injury of Howard’s career. He had previously been the model for durability, missing only five games in his first seven years in the league.
Howard’s injury impacts more than just the Magic. Howard, an Olympic gold medalist in 2008, was set to help Team USA go for gold again this summer in the London Olympics. As the league’s best center, he won’t be easy to replace.
This is just the latest twist in what has been a crazy year for Howard to say the least. He was the subject of trade rumors basically from the minute the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed. He requested a trade prior to the start of the season and tried to force the Magic’s hand to move him to a team on his list by refusing to sign an extension.
There were a few moments prior to the trade deadline where it looked like Howard could be on his way out. Then after months of endless rumors and speculation, Howard momentarily put the talk to rest by waiving his early termination option.
While that gave Magic management the time they were desperately seeking to try and convince Howard to stay long-term, it didn’t prevent more problems from surfacing.
Howard and Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy’s relationship has always been somewhat rocky. In recent weeks, though, the turmoil between the two peaked. Van Gundy publicly acknowledged that Howard told management he wanted him fired, which didn’t sit well with the image-conscious big man.
“I didn’t say it was untrue,” Van Gundy clarified at the time. “I just said you move on. Look, what’s important right now is that we play basketball, but that’s where our focus needs to be. There doesn’t need to be any focus on my job security. Nobody has to worry about me. I’ll be fine. If I need to, I could get another job. I have money put away, so there’s no concern about my job security and there shouldn’t be any concern about what Dwight wants right now, honestly. That’s not what it’s about. What it’s about is everyone of us, coaches, players, everybody, Dwight, his teammates and all of us as coaches working our asses off every single day to get better as a team and get ready for the playoffs. That’s what it’s about and that’s what it’s got to stay about. The rest of it is, management takes care of all of that, they decide it. The day you take a coaching job, I don’t think there’s anybody taking a coach job in this league saying ‘I’ll probably be here until the day I die.’ (Stuff)’s going to happen at some point. You don’t worry about that.”
Now the two may not have to ever worry about working together again. With Howard out for the playoffs, odds are he’s played his last game for Van Gundy. A breakup has looked inevitable for quite some time. Short of winning the NBA title, which the Magic certainly aren’t doing now without Howard, Van Gundy was going to be on his way out anyway.
As far as the rest of this season is concerned, it will be a sneak peak for the Magic to see what life without the game’s most dominant big man is like. And while he will be back for the start of the 2012-2013 season, the circus concerning his pending free agent status will be back as well.