Dwight Howard will start tonight for the Houston Rockets, head coach Kevin McHale told reporters this afternoon, nearly two months to the day since his last game.
Howard was listed as questionable yesterday, but McHale made the call that the former MVP candidate will replace Joey Dorsey in the starting 5 and play on a minutes restriction. His initial injury timeline was 4-6 weeks or 6-8 weeks, depending on who you ask, and this is a little longer than eight weeks since he went out.
Jason Terry will also start, and we won't know what's going on with Patrick Beverley for 7-10 days as he continues to sort through treatment options. So that's a Terry-Harden-Ariza-Motiejunas-Howard starting lineup to roll out against the New Orleans Pelicans.
It's great that Dwight's back, and he has a chance to take it to Omer Asik to boot. He said he plans to play 16 minutes, and expect a good chunk of those to be shared with Josh Smith as Motiejunas and Dorsey operate as the center with bench units.
Without a clear picture on Beverley's wrist health -- other than that it's not great -- we can't make a judgment on what Dwight's return means for the Rockets playoff chances. He hasn't played with a team that includes Corey Brewer, Josh Smith and Terrence Jones at the same time yet this year.
So, for now and the next few games, all eyes will simply be on Howard's performance. Is he really back to his above-the-rim dominating days? Can he block two shots a game again? How is his mobility on the pick-and-roll? That's what I, and you, should be looking for tonight.