- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2018

Dwight Howard gave reporters a crash course in the piriformis muscle on Monday afternoon.

The Washington Wizards‘ new center fully participated in practice, his first time doing so since training camp opened. Howard had been sidelined with an injury to his piriformis, a muscle in the buttocks.

“It’s pretty tight,” Howard said. “It’s a pain in the a—, but it’s OK. I’ll be alright.”

Despite the tightness, Howard felt he had a good practice, and Wizards coach Scott Brooks was impressed with Howard’s endurance to get through the entire practice without electing to skip any drills due to his pain.

“(Howard) did absolutely everything. NBA players always amaze me,” Brooks said. “They’re here for a reason. He played well.”



Howard was only expected to partake in light work Monday. Instead, Brooks said he did well with some light work at Saturday’s practice, so he advanced to full-court activities, including scrimmaging on both the first and second teams.

All of this will fill Washington fans with hope that Howard will play in Thursday’s season opener against the Miami Heat, but both Brooks and Howard said it is too early to tell.

“See how it feels,” Howard said. “I’ll do whatever I can to make myself available for all 82 games, but the main thing is making sure that I’m healthy for the rest of the season.”

Howard came to Wizards‘ media day Sept. 24 with a sore back, and Brooks initially listed him as day-to-day. The center received an injection for the pain earlier this month.

Around the same time, the public’s knowledge of his injury narrowed from “back” to “piriformis,” which is hardly a common part of the sports injury lexicon.

“Most, I would say about 90 percent of humans, their piriformis muscles are like this,” Howard said, holding his index and middle fingers together horizontally.

“Everybody else, they have a piriformis muscle like this.” He split his fingers apart into a V shape.

“You have nerves that go over the top or in between,” Howard went on. “I’m in the 7, 8 percent of the world who has a piriformis like this. So the nerve goes in between here, it gets really tight, it squeezes on the nerve and it causes a lot of pain.

“Basically, I was getting on my own nerves for the past couple of weeks,” he joked, “and it was kicking my a—.”

The pain has affected Howard in everything from running to simply sitting down. He’s worked on his rehab with physical therapy, lifting and running.

The Wizards used the “mini mid-level exception” to sign Howard to a two-year, $10.9 million contract, with a player option for year two. He is expected to be the Wizards‘ starting center once he is healthy, with Ian Mahinmi as their best option while he is out.

In addition to rehab, Howard has to get on the same page with his new teammates and build chemistry with John Wall, Bradley Beal and the other starters.

“Still learning a lot of plays, but I think it’s more so what we’re trying to get accomplished on offense,” Howard said. “We want to get a lot of pick-and-rolls in, get a lot of movement, force guys to have to make decisions off the ball. We’ve got the right lineup to do it, our coaching staff is amazing, so I think we’re gonna have an unbelievable year.”

“We just try to keep our packages and condense it a little bit for him,” Brooks said. “He’s gonna take a couple of days to work on all of our offensive sets. We put quite a few plays in, but like I said, he has a natural feel. His IQ is pretty high, I’m impressed with that. He picked things up.”

Howard appeared to be spent when he spoke to reporters, at one point admitting he didn’t look as excited as he felt for the season to start. But in other moments, he flashed some of what made him one of the league’s biggest personalities of the decade.

Prodded to put a percentage on his recovery, he said he didn’t have “the percentage meter” with him.

“The training staff, they have a percentage meter for injuries and you have to get on the scale so they see what the percentage is,” he sad. “No, I don’t know the percentage, man.”

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