With the Wizards in Phoenix, we learned not to expect a Dwight Howard resurrection this season.
Nobody really expected the veteran center back in the lineup considering the tepid recovery updates from head coach Scott Brooks in recent weeks. Howard rejoined the Wizards in late February for non-contact work after conducting his primary rehab from the Nov. 30 back surgery in his native Atlanta. He suffered a hamstring injury along the way.
Ahead of the March 18 home game against Utah, Brooks wouldn’t go all the way with any shutdown talk (“Not officially.”). He went the extra step with seven games remaining for the 30-45 Wizards.
“It’s pretty safe to say,” Brooks said before Wednesday’s game against the Suns.
The eight-time All-Star played nine games on the season, with his final appearance Nov. 18. The big question now is whether Howard, 33, plays for Washington next season.
He signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the Wizards in July, which included a player option for the 2019-20 season. The odds of Howard opting into the second season seemingly increased each day he sat out beyond the original three-month recovery timeline.
Howard’s $5.6 million salary would eliminate some of the Wizards’ cap space, which was primarily created in February by trading Otto Porter to Chicago.
His return would also create a potential logjam at center. Young interior options Thomas Bryant and forward Bobby Portis, who Brooks has primarily used at the 5, are restricted free agents the Wizards may retain. Ian Mahinmi is on the books for the final year of his 4-year, $64 million contract.
The Wizards’ forecast is already complicated by John Wall’s torn Achilles that likely keeps the point guard out for the majority of the 2019-20 season. We’ll see if Howard returns – and at what physical level. All we know now is Howard won’t suit up again this campaign.
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