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According to both his agent and team officials on Thursday night, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard will miss the remainder of the regular season, the entire post-season, and also, the 2012 Summer Olympics because of surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back, scheduled for Friday. Back issues had been nagging Howard, dating back to early March, but the herniated disk was not discovered until last week by Los Angeles spinal surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins.
“Dwight went in for an MRI Thursday morning,” said Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan. “When the results of that MRI came back, it appeared from that MRI that the problem had worsened the tear. The doctors got on the phone. They consulted together, and they both reached the same conclusion: that he was no longer a candidate for rehab, that surgery was required.”
Howard had been absent from the Magic line-up for the past six consecutive games with the injury and a total of eight this season. Without his presence, the Magic has gone just 3-5, and opponents have taken advantage on the offensive end, shooting 50 percent from the floor in 6 of the 8 contests.
“It hurts (emotionally),” said Howard. “That’s the first thing — it hurts. And then with people saying and thinking I’m quitting on my team. This is a real issue. I tried to play through it and it just made my back worse.”
In a season where Howard made almost non-stop headlines for all of the wrong reasons and had his mental commitment to the organization vigorously questioned, he now finds himself missing in action and in the news for health issues – something that, ironically enough, is completely out of his control this time around.
Howard’s indecisiveness concerning his future with the Magic was one of the major storylines around the entire league until he decided to waive his early termination option on the day of the trade deadline. Although an extension was not signed, waiving the option meant that Howard would remain under contract with Orlando through next season. However, this would only bring a temporary end to the drama surrounding the Magic big man.
On April 5, only hours before a game with the New York Knicks, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters that he had been informed by the team’s front office that Howard asked them to fire him. Moments later, Howard put his arm around Van Gundy and insisted that this was not their main concern. He has denied the reports ever since, and many believe that Van Gundy is nothing more than a dead man walking.
It was also reported just days ago by WKMG in Orlando that Howard personally called Magic owner Rich DeVos during an April 13game against the Atlanta Hawks and told him he would not play for Van Gundy anymore. Sources told WKMG that Howard’s reasoning behind this was that he was still upset about Van Gundy’s comments to the media concerning his desire for a coaching change. However, other sources claim that no such phone call was ever made.
Nonetheless, the Magic is left with two options – either lay down in the post-season because their star will not be out there to lead them, or fight through it, and make a run that no one will see coming. Howard has faith in the latter.
“If the guys come together, we still have a chance,” Howard said. “I know what we have in that locker room. I’ve seen it in spurts this season. I’ve told them, ‘We don’t have to be the biggest or the strongest; we just have to believe.’”
Image Courtesy of Keith Allison