OKLAHOMA CITY — For all the criticism Dwight Howard’s weathered for not looking like the player he once was before his 11-month back surgery, just imagine the commentary had the Lakers center taken more time rehabbing his game before returning to the court late in the exhibition season.
There’s a certain irony to it all.
Does Howard wonder what would’ve happened if he delayed his return until he his back felt fully healthy?
“I said that plenty of times, but I don’t want myself to be thinking so much on what I should’ve done or what if I would’ve waited until this time or that time,” Howard said. “I know the harder I push myself every day to get better and get in shape, my body will respond. This summer, after the season, I’ll get an opportunity to train and get my body right.”
Yet, Howard maintains zero regrets for returning in late October after missing only four preseason games.
“I could’ve sat out the whole season and started playing now,” Howard said. “But I felt like we had such a great opportunity. For some these guys, the opportunity to win is very small. I just wanted to get back and do whatever I can to help this team. I wasn’t in great shape and my body wasn’t all the way there. But I just wanted to do whatever I can to help this team win.”
That didn’t always happen.
Principles, ranging from coach Mike D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant to Steve Nash, have implied he should bear at least some of the pain in his shoulder. Howard’s 16.1 points and 12 rebounds per game average are his lowest marks since the 2005-06 season.
But since the All-Star break, Howard has averaged 14.83 points on 58.3 percent shooting, 13.83 rebounds and 2.16 blocks per game. He’s appeared noticeably healthier, allowing him to run at a faster pace and provide more activity on defense. Howard has also expressed hope that he’ll feel fully healthy in the playoffs, assuming the Lakers advance that far.
“Sometimes I have gotten beat up for it, but that’s fine,” Howard said. “I took all those hits and I keep moving. I’ve been doing whatever I can to get back into the shape I’v always been into. It takes a while. People watch games and see me playing and think it’s all good. It’s just a time thing. I have to keep going and push myself.”
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