HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard said Wednesday that his injured right knee is feeling better and he’s close to returning to the court after a nearly two-month layoff.
Howard, who has missed the last 23 games due to swelling in the knee, returned to practice in the last week. He wouldn’t give a timetable for his return, but his comments seemed to indicate it would be soon.
“I had a good eight weeks of really training and working on my body and mentally I feel good, physically I feel great so I can’t wait to get back on the floor,” he said.
Howard had a bone marrow aspirate injection in his knee on Feb. 9. Since then, he’s gone through a grueling rehabilitation process that has included spending an inordinate amount of time on the treadmill.
“We did some extremely tough workouts on the treadmill. Anytime anyone says treadmill, I lose it,” Howard joked. “I don’t think anybody understands what they had me doing on the treadmill. I was just begging them: ‘Can I just play so I don’t have to do this?’ Rehab is harder than the actual practice and all of that stuff.”
He said his knee no longer hurts, but that it’s been a little achy in the past few days as he’s started doing more full-contact work on the court.
“They’ve been doing a lot of different things to get me in shape, to get me moving and running,” he said. “Each day they’ve been building up the test to see how far my body can go without breaking down or swelling in my knee or pain.”
Howard has played just 32 games this season, averaging 16.3 points, 11 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a game.
It’s the most games Howard has missed in his 11-year NBA career and it has been tough on him.
“My knee is something where I have to look out for the long run,” the 29-year-old Howard said. “It’s not just about this season but the rest of my career. As much as I would love to play through all the injuries, I just have to realize that the most important thing is my health.”
The Rockets have gone 15-8 during this stretch without him and entered Wednesday’s games in fourth place in the Western Conference.