Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard to have back surgery Friday; out for playoffs, Olympics

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And it’s official — the Orlando Magic are the team everyone wants to face in the first round.

Dwight Howard will not be back for the playoffs because he is going to have surgery on the herniated disc in his back, his agent told Ric Bucher of ESPN.

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard will undergo back surgery Friday morning in Los Angeles to repair a herniated disk, effectively ending his season and eliminating him from participation in the 2012 Summer Olympics, Howard’s agent said Thursday night…

Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent, said he hopes this development debunks any thoughts that Howard’s back problem was not serious and that he was utilizing it as an excuse not to play.

Howard had an epidural on his back and was going to receive treatment and be re-evaluated close to the playoffs, but there had been no progress and surgery was the next option.

“It hurts (emotionally),” Howard told ESPN the Magazine’s Chris Broussard. “That’s the first thing — it hurts. And then with people saying and thinking I’m quitting on my team. This is a real issue. I tried to play through it and it just made my back worse.”

Howard was a lock to make the Team USA for the Olympics and this opens up a space for a rim-protecting center that could now well go to Tyson Chandler. Mike Krzyzewski has some tough choices ahead there.

Howard should be able to return from this surgery for next season in Orlando.

Howard’s agent also denied that the star center had called the team owner and said he would never play again for coach Stan Van Gundy.

After his recovery this summer all the drama around the team will still be there waiting for him in Orlando next fall — he almost certainly will have a new coach (nobody expects Van Gundy back now) but will the Magic bring in enough talent to get Howard to sign a contract extension. It’s hard to see how they will and next year could be another year of a soap opera surrounding Orlando.

But that all now has to wait on back surgery for Howard.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. 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 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).

Dario Saric blocks back-to-back Raptors dunk attempts (video)

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Norman Powell – get out of here.

Jared Sullinger – get out of here.

Dario Saric blocked consecutive dunk attempts in the 76ers’ 94-89 win over the Raptors. Philadelphia has won seven of nine and looks suddenly revitalized.

The best part of all this? Saric’s teammates’ reactions – though the actual blocks were pretty great themselves.