As the Wizards left town to swing through the Western Conference on a 10-day, five-game road trip, their starting center Dwight Howard stayed behind. He needed more time to rehab his strained piriformis muscle, an injury that does not mesh well with airplane cabins and long flights.
The Wizards let Howard remain in D.C. to ease his way back. They have remained adamant about not rushing him onto the court, in hopes that once he does return he will not have any setbacks.
Howard has been working over the past week-plus with Wizards player development assistants Alex McLean and Mike Williams. McLean is a former Division I college player who spent time playing professionally overseas. He is 6-foot-8, played forward and remains in good enough basketball shape to face off with Wizards players in a practice setting.
With McLean, the Wizards can have Howard participate in contact drills. That's important with the team on the road because, although they now have a G-League affiliate practicing and playing in the same building Howard is training in, he isn't allowed to actually play with them.
League rules stipulate that NBA players can't participate in G-League practice and vice versa. That has created a tricky dynamic for both the Wizards and the Capital City Go-Go in the first year of their partnership.
Howard, who has trained in the mornings, is gone by the time the G-League players show up for practice. They may see him on his way out or in the parking lot, but the team is careful to prevent overlap.
If Howard was officially assigned to the Go-Go, he could practice with them and in doing so complete a rehab assignment, not unlike those which are common in Major League Baseball.
"It would be awesome to get him out there and playing with us, but league rules prohibit that," Go-Go head coach Jarell Christian said.
Christian, who served as G-League assistant in the Oklahoma City Thunder organization before arriving in Washington, said rehab assignments for practice have become increasingly common. They are especially beneficial later in the season when NBA teams pare down their practice schedules to accommodate player rest.
In baseball, even MLB superstars will play in actual minor league games to regain their rhythm before returning to the majors. Nationals All-Stars Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, for instance, have served rehab stints with nearby Single-A affiliates in Woodbridge, Va. and Hagerstown, Md.
Christian, though, doesn't see that happening for the NBA anytime soon. Don't expect to see John Wall playing 10 minutes for the Go-Go one day before rejoining the Wizards.
"I think we're probably a ways away from that," Christian said.
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