The Houston Rockets expect center Dwight Howard to return on March 25 against the New Orleans Pelicans. Howard missed the team's last 26 games after injuring his knee on Jan. 23.
The Houston Rockets are expecting Dwight Howard to return on March 25.
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Rockets head coach Kevin McHale told The Houston Chronicle's Jenny Dial Creech during the team's recent road game against the Indiana Pacers that Howard is set to take the court again on March 25 against the New Orleans Pelicans. It will be Howard's first taste of action after missing 26 games because of edema in his right knee.
McHale told Creech that Howard will play on Wednesday unless their light practice the day before affected him:
"We plan to play him unless what we did today bothers him.
"We are so down on bodies and we don't have a lot of practice time. We might have to start throwing him out there and letting him get some minutes in the game, whether he starts out 15-20 minutes and getting game time.
"But he has to start playing here pretty soon because otherwise the season is just going to go by and you can't wait for the playoffs to come back, so we'll see."
McHale also stressed Howard's return ought to offset the absence of guard Pat Beverley, who has an injured wrist, per The Houston Chronicle:
"It will help. It will put people back in their positions. It allows DMo to get back and play a little more at power forward. Dwight can absorb some of the bigger bodies and give us 20 minutes or so against these bigger bodies."
The Rockets are also dealing with the injuries of Terrence Jones (partially-collapsed lung) and Kostas Papanikolau (ankle), per KHOU 11's Daniel Gotera.
For his part, Howard told Creech he's happy the long wait is finally over:
"We will see how I feel tomorrow. Today I feel really good. Hopefully tomorrow, I will feel even better.
"I am always anxious to play. Not being on the floor for a long time, watching from the sidelines is hard. I will be happy to finally get out there and play.
"We have a really good, deep team. We have a lot of guys who can put the ball in the basket. We have a lot of good defenders. We have some good veterans. Everybody wants to win and that's the mentality we have.
"The most important thing is to be ready for the playoffs. I don't want to take any nights off then."
Howard is confident he's ready to make an impact, per Gotera:
"When you're rehabbing, it's pretty intense, moreso harder than practice or anything the rest of the guys are doing. They're really trying to test you to see if you can last a little bit longer in the games so from that standpoint, I feel like I'm ready."
Howard told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein last week he expects to play for 20 to 25 minutes per game when he returns so he can improve his stamina. He will not play in back-to-backs.
Houston has three back-to-back games left on its schedule. One will be at the end of this month when they square off against the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors, per ESPN.
The Rockets have done reasonably well in Howard's absence. They have sported a 16-9 win-loss record since he last played on Jan. 23, per Gotera.
Howard has averaged 16.3 points and 11 rebounds per game for the 47-23 (.671) Rockets this season, per ESPN.
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