Dwight Howard takes 'big step' toward return from knee injury

NBA Basketball

Almost one week after returning to practice, Rockets center Dwight Howard received encouraging news when the team upgraded his status from “out” to “doubtful” to play against the Pacers on Monday in Indianapolis, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday.

“That’s a big step,” Howard said after being informed of the injury report change, per the Houston Chronicle. “I haven’t circled a day, but hopefully the next couple games I’ll be back.”

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 was expected to miss six to eight weeks after receiving a bone marrow aspirate injection in his right knee in February. Since the procedure, he has resumed on-court activities, working out alone and participating in two-on-two drills. Howard has been sidelined for Houston’s last 24 games with swelling in his knee. He additionally missed 11 games from Nov. 19 to Dec. 11 with a right knee strain and one game on Nov. 8 with flu-like symptoms. In total, he has sat out 36 games this season.

“I would love to,” Howard said of returning on Monday or Wednesday, “but it’s going to depend on how I feel later on today after the workout I just had and how I feel in the morning.

“I don’t know. Hopefully. We’ll see.”

Howard, 29, was the first overall selection of the 2004 NBA Draft and is an eight-time All-Star. He is averaging 16.3 points and 11.0 rebounds this season. The Rockets are 22-10 in games with Howard and 24-13 in games without him.

“I’ve been working pretty hard,” Howard said, according to the Chronicle. “It just depends. Right now, when I get back, it’s just do everything as hard as I can for as long as I can, as long as they’ll allow me to play.

“I felt pretty good, but when you’re rehabbing, it’s pretty intense. It’s harder than practice or anything the rest of the guys are doing because they’re really trying to test you to see if you can last a little longer in the game. From that standpoint, I feel like I’m ready.”