It took longer than we initially thought, but Dwight Howard is scheduled to return to the Rockets' lineup tomorrow night in New Orleans, where he gets to go toe-to-toe with former teammate Omer Asik and real-life Monstar Anthony Davis. The Chronicle's Jenny Dial Creech broke the news on Twitter:
McHale says depending on how Dwight Howard feels today, he plans to play him tomorrow in New Orleans.— Jenny Dial Creech (@jennydialcreech) March 24, 2015
The tea leaves were there for those who wanted to read them yesterday, when Dwight was upgraded to "doubtful" for the Pacers game -- laughably meaningless out of context, considering there was no chance he'd play with that designation after such a long absence, but indicative of meaningful progress.
D12 has missed the last 26 games with fluid buildup in his knee, an eight-week absence longer than the original estimate. But I feel like I speak for all Rockets fans when I say that I do not mind being extra cautious with Dwight AT ALL. In fact, the details of Howard's return now make me wish they were being more cautious:
McHale said he is going to have to start throwing Howard out there bc the Rockets are low on bodies. Didn't give a date, but sounds soon.— Jenny Dial Creech (@jennydialcreech) March 24, 2015
So, Dwight is coming back not because he's all the way ready, but because the other Rockets are so banged up. Great. It's likely he'll be eased back at 15-20 minutes a game, but that's still 15-20 minutes of potential for aggravating a not-fully-healed injury.
Yes, the Rockets have been getting beat up on the boards and Donatas Motiejunas could really use some help banging against the biggest bodies every night, and yes, Dwight's going to need time to get up to speed so he's fully ready for the playoffs, but none of that will be helped if he reinjures himself and has to be shut down.
Make no mistake, it's exciting to have the Rockets' second-best player back, but I don't know if it's worth it right now. Anyway, stay healthy, Dwight.