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Wizards' Howard says he's pain-free after surgery

Nearly three weeks after undergoing a lumbar microdiscectomy, Dwight Howard surprised his Washington Wizards teammates Tuesday evening in Atlanta ahead of their matchup against the Hawks and told reporters he’s pain free and has his eye on a championship comeback this season.

Dec 18, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Wizards center Dwight Howard (21) talks to Atlanta Hawks guard Kent Bazemore (24) and forward Vince Carter (15) and forward Taurean Prince (12) after a game at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Howard said he has been rehabbing at home in Atlanta because “I know if I would have been around the team after the surgery, I would have wanted to been out there and play. ... I think the team doctors had the best solution: Go home, get your mind right, get your body right and when you return, let’s get to that championship.”

The 33-year-old center had surgery Nov. 30 in Marina del Rey, Calif., to alleviate a muscle injury near the buttocks and is expected to miss two to three months. At the recommendation of a nerve specialist, Howard opted for surgery on the L4-L5 discs in his spine.

“Physically, I’m a lot better than I was before the surgery,” Howard said. “The nine games I played, I basically played on one leg. So, you know, I’m just happy that that’s out the way and I can rehab and get ready for the second half of the season.”

Howard missed the first seven games this season with what the team called “gluteal soreness.” In the nine games he did play, Howard averaged 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds.

Howard noted it’s a slow recovery process and his main activity to date is walking, which he was mentally prepared for after a 2012 back surgery to repair a herniated disc.

“When you have back surgery, the rehab is a little bit different for any other injury,” he explained. “The first couple of weeks and almost like a month and a half, you’re just walking. You got to start with the core program, just Level 1, which is real slow. Then you got to pass Level 1 and get to Level 2. You got to get all the way to Level 5 to be able to play.”

He continued: “So, I remember the first time I went through this: The first time I went to the gym, I could only shoot 10 jump shots, and I couldn’t jump. I could only stand in one spot, lift my arms and shoot, and that was, like, the hardest thing to do -- just go to the gym and not be able to do what you want to do. So, I understand this process, and I’ve just been mentally preparing myself for what’s ahead, just to make it easier. But also to hopefully make my return faster, because I know what I need to do to get better.”

Washington acquired Howard in July after he and the Brooklyn Nets arranged a contract buyout, and in October, he was diagnosed with a strained piriformis muscle. That muscle is near the upper hip joint near the buttocks.

--Field Level Media