WASHINGTON (AP) — Dwight Howard joked Monday about the sore back that’s expected to keep him out for the start of training camp with the Washington Wizards.
Coach Scott Brooks downplayed the significance of the injury, too. Still, it’s not ideal that the team needs to put off incorporating its one offseason addition to the starting lineup.
“I’ve been having to do a lot of traveling with shoe companies and stuff like that in China. So just from training, traveling – and airplanes weren’t made for tall people. … It kind of sucks to fly 15 hours curled up in the fetal position,” said Howard, a 6-foot-11 center entering his 15th NBA season.
“So just a minor setback. It shouldn’t take that long for me to get back on the court,” he added. “I’ve been feeling great all summer. Just something that we’ll have to deal with, and it shouldn’t keep me out too long.”
The Wizards traded away starting center Marcin Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers and added Howard, who’ll turn 33 in December, on a two-year, $11 million contract with a player option. He averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds last season for a Charlotte Hornets team that missed the playoffs and now is with his fourth team in four years.
That means adjusting yet again – to new teammates, to a new coach, to a new system.
In Washington, everything revolves around the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Last season, when Wall appeared in only 41 of 82 games, the Wizards went 43-39 and were eighth in the Eastern Conference, losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Toronto Raptors.
Howard, an eight-time All-Star, said that he has not had a chance to get on a court with Wall and Beal to start getting a feel for one another.
“But one thing that I have done is I’ve watched a lot of film to really learn the tendencies of my teammates. Where they like the ball. Where they like to get screened at. Just things that will really help them get to their sweet spots,” Howard said. “A lot of times, the best way to really understand your teammate is by watching film.”
Brooks, Beal and others said all the right things at Monday’s media day about Howard.
“He’s going to make my job a lot easier. He’s going to make everybody’s job a lot easier on both ends of the floor, because you still have to respect his ability at the rim. He averaged 16 and 13 last year. Those are great numbers, you know? In our system, those can increase, easily,” said Beal, who led Washington in scoring by averaging 22.6 points and was an All-Star for the first time.
“Watching him, if you don’t hit him, it’s over. He’s going to dunk on you. And I love it. Because I think that’s going to get me hyped – just being able to have a big who’ll just flush it on you every time and somebody who will block some shots if you get beat on defense,” Beal said. “He’s a threat on both ends of the floor.”
Now it’s just a matter of getting Howard out on that floor with the rest of the Wizards.
“We’re just going to be careful. Not sure if he will practice tomorrow” when camp opens, Brooks said at the club’s media day.
Brooks listed Howard’s status as “day-to-day,” saying he wasn’t “overly concerned.”
“But we’re not going to rush him to get back,” the coach said.