Howard has missed all seven games so far this season, as well as all of training camp and the preseason while dealing with back issues stemming from a sore piriformis. He went through multiple practices with the team two weeks ago, but they chose to keep him at home when they embarked on their five-game road trip so he could work on his conditioning.
Washington will be eager to get Howard out on the floor. They’ve started 1-6, thanks in large part to issues Howard can address. The Wizards’ other centers have been ineffective, which has left them with no other option than to play Markieff Morris heavy minutes at center, up until he had to enter the NBA’s concussion protocol on Sunday. The team is currently dead last in rebounding rate, pulling in just 43.3 percent of all available rebounds this season. Last season Howard averaged 12.5 rebounds per game, more than double what anyone else on the team has averaged so far this season.
Howard’s shot-blocking presence should help Washington tighten up their defense as well. The Wizards are 26th in defensive rating, allowing 114.1 points per 100 possessions. Opponents are making 19.4 field goals per game in the restricted area this season, the tenth-highest average in the league.
The problem is that Howard probably won’t fix Washington’s locker room squabbling, which has arguably been their biggest issue this season. If anything, his track record suggests he could make things worse if he isn’t happy with his role.
Only time will tell if Howard is what Washington needs to get back on track or if he pushes the train all the way off the rails. Either way, we should get our first idea of what he can do on Friday.