Around the holidays the words probable and probably are often used. For kids it’s a magical word that means they may get the toy they want; for adults it means they may get that new car they have wanted all year. For Los Angeles Lakers fans it means that there is still a good chance for a title run after All-Star weekend, yet for Dwight Howard probably almost meant an early retirement.
The Lakers star center almost had to call it quits before going into herniated disc surgery for his back last season. As Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register and Scott Cooper of NBA.com both reported Dwight was dangerously close to hearing the words “never play basketball again“,
The doctors told him that if he kept trying to fight through the pain “for a couple weeks or a month” more and put off surgery (as Howard sort of wanted to in order to answer critics in Orlando expecting him to bail on the franchise), he might have done irreparable harm to his spine.
“If I would have waited until after the season, if I would have tried to continue to play, then I probably wouldn’t be able to play anymore,” Howard said.
Like previously stated, Dwight wanted to play to respond to his critics but had to consider his health and the longevity of his career,
“When I got hurt, I lost my whole left leg, basically, from my nerves,” he said. “That takes at least nine months to get that strength back. I was able to get some of it back in a couple of months. But it’s always a process. I wish that it would all come back right away, but this is a great time for me to work on other parts of my game that’ll make myself better and also make the team better.
At one point Dwight was willing to play through the injury but had to reconsider what the repercussions were;
“If I would have waited until after the season (to have the operation), if I would have tried to continue to play, then I probably wouldn’t be able to play anymore. I had to do it right away. I didn’t want to risk my career for some playoff games. They were important for me, but my health is important.”
Dwight made the right decision and decided to have the surgery and begin his long journey back to being in his playing shape. He has taken a lot of criticism for not being the player he was in Orlando but he does feel it coming,
“It’s really, at this point, not even my back. The injury I had caused my whole left leg to just lose all strength. My nerves were severely damaged. It takes a while for those nerves to grow back and for you to have enough strength to play. All that stuff is coming back slowly. There’s still days, like I said, where I feel really good, and there’s day when I’m not so good. But it’s all a process. I’m pretty sure at the end of the year I’ll feel a lot better than I do now.
Right now, Dwight still has a long road ahead of him to return to his dominant form. What people forget is that when he first was acquired via trade reports about his injury had him out until January and even then he would have had to still get into shape. Expectations for this Lakers team were sky high at the beginning of the season and I still believe that they can be reached but it will take time and determination from Dwight who is ultimately the backbone for the Lakers present and future.