Scott Brooks said after Tuesday’s practice that Dwight Howard “tweaked” his hamstring recently which led to a “minor setback” with his recovery from surgery. Brooks also told Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington that while he looked better in non-contact drills today, it’s still unclear when he could return to action for the Wizards.
“Don’t know when he’s going to come back. Obviously, the season is winding down. But he’s moving around pretty good today.”
Howard hasn’t played in over three months, and with less than 20 games left in the season, it’s looking more and more like he may not return this season. He still hasn’t been cleared for contact work, which is just one of several hurdles he must clear before he can take the floor again. Even if he can get back healthy, Washington may not be at a point where it makes sense to play him. The Wizards’ odds of making the playoffs have dwindled, and it makes sense for Washington to get as much information as possible on Bobby Portis and Thomas Bryant before they enter restricted free agency this summer.
The big question now is what will the Wizards do with Howard next season. He will likely pick up his $5.6 million player option rather than test the free agency. However, if the Wizards go young and keep one or both of Portis and Bryant, there may not be much playing time left for Howard, even if he gets back to full health.
The simplest move may be to unload Howard before his lack of playing time potentially becomes a contentious issue. They could look to trade him, but it might take an asset to incentivize a team to make a deal, and Washington doesn’t have many to spare. Trading a first round pick would be overkill, and they already traded their 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 second round picks, although they got a 2023 second round pick back from Chicago in the Otto Porter Jr. trade.
If they can’t find a trade partner, Washington might have to at least consider the stretch provision. The Wizards will have flexibility to add free agents this summer and they might use the extra space they’d get by spreading out his cap hit over three years to bring in someone who fits in better with their new direction. Otherwise, here’s to hoping Howard can get healthy and show he’s still got something left in the tank after such a snake-bitten season.