OAKLAND – Lakers center Dwight Howard said he briefly imagined his career being over eight months ago when doctors said a herniated disc caused nerve damage in his left leg that could have forced him to retire.
“I did for a couple days,” Howard said Saturday night after the Lakers beat the Warriors at Oracle Arena.
What became a final season in Orlando, a contentious split marred by his wavering on a future with the Magic, ended with April 20 surgery, sidelining the three-time Defensive Player of the Year for the playoffs and the Olympics with Team USA. But Howard said the full extent of the injury was not known publicly, and that while he is still not 100 percent while playing for the Lakers, he is far ahead of the original timetable.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
Traded to the Lakers as part of a four-team blockbuster on August 10, Howard is averaging 17.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.59 blocks and 36.4 minutes, second-most on the team behind Kobe Bryant. He has played all 27 games.