WASHINGTON -- Any timeline involving Dwight Howard’s potential return to the Wizards this season following back surgery remains uncertain. There is now a new tweak to the story.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks revealed Tuesday that Howard, 32, suffered a “minor setback” a couple of days ago as the center “tweaked” his hamstring. Howard has yet to begin any contact work in his recovery from a lumbar microdiscectomy on Nov. 30. The organization announced a 2-3 month recovery timeline following the procedure.
The Wizards, 26-37 entering Wednesday’s home game against the Dallas Mavericks, have 19 regular season games remaining. Washington is three games behind eighth-place Orlando and two games back in the loss column.
“Don’t know when he’s going to come back,” Brooks said of Howard. “Obviously, the season is winding down. But he’s moving around pretty good today.”
Howard last played on Nov. 18, one of nine games he participated in this season. The eight-time All-Star signed two-year, $11 million contract with the Wizards in July, which included a player option for the 2019-20 season.
Beyond potentially helping the playoff-pushing Wizards this season, the primary intrigue with Howard involves whether he exercises the player option for next season.
Washington created some salary cap space by shipping out Otto Porter before the Feb. 7 league trade deadline. Howard’s $5.5 million salary would eat into that room and potentially alter the team’s thinking with a pair of restricted free agents, center Thomas Bryant and forward Bobby Portis.
Howard returning to action would give everyone a chance to gauge his physical status. There may also become a point, especially if the Wizards are mathematically eliminated from the playoff chase, where it’s better for all if he just sits. Adding his old school interior presence to a group that plays more up-tempo would also require strategic changes.
“We’ll get to that when we get to that," Brooks said of possibly shutting Howard down at some point. "Right now it’s just focusing on getting him game ready. ...We still have 19 games to go. We’ll see.”
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