From Comcast SportsNetDwight Howard's season is over. His chances to help Team USA win another Olympic gold are likely done, too.Orlando's All-Star center told ESPN.com he will have season-ending back surgery, and Magic general manager Otis Smith confirmed the plan to the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday night."It's in his best interests to have surgery sooner rather than later," Smith told the newspaper.Friday's operation in Los Angeles to repair a herniated disk also will keep him from playing in the Olympics in London, Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, told ESPN.com."I tried to play through it and it just made my back worse," Howard told ESPN.comHoward has been dealing with back problems since early March, but it wasn't until last week that a doctor discovered the herniated disk."He said I can start rehab right away and be back to full contact in four months," Howard told ESPN.com. "So I'm not really concerned. If anything, I'll come back stronger."Howard has missed the last six games because of the injury. Orlando holds the sixth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and coach Stan Van Gundy said last week that he was preparing to play the rest of the season without Howard.Now it looks as if Team USA will have to plan to play without Howard as well.USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said Thursday night he hadn't been told of Howard's plans and it was too early to speculate on the Olympic team.The final roster of 12 players and six alternates is due June 18 and the U.S. may have to consider increasing its pool of possible candidates with Howard out and fellow big man LaMarcus Aldridge iffy following right hip surgery."I understand exactly who's involved," Colangelo said. "The only thing I don't know is the extent of Dwight Howard's situation, and I really want to find out more about that. But we may have to consider, you know, invitations to a couple (other) players. That's a possibility. We'll talk about it."The Miami Heat may see Orlando in the playoffs. When the news of Howard's surgery hit their locker room Thursday night, Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- both likely Olympic-teamers -- wished Howard well and said it was disappointing not to have him in the mix for the London Games."He's a big part of our team for the Olympics and I hate to lose him because of an injury," James said. "I wish him the best."The surgery is the latest development in the Magic's soap-opera season that has grabbed more attention than the team's record.Howard was the subject of season-long trade rumors until declaring in February his intention to remain in Orlando for one more year. The controversy continued earlier this month when Van Gundy said Howard asked team management to fire him. Howard has since denied that. Another report from an Orlando television station this week said Howard called Magic owner Rich DeVos to say he was refusing to play for Van Gundy again.Before this season, Howard had only missed two games in his career because of injury.Howard is averaging 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds.The Magic also have been playing without Hedo Turkoglu (facial fracture) since April 5. He's averaging 10.7 points and is shooting 34.9 percent on 3-pointers.With Howard and Turkoglu sidelined, Van Gundy has started Glen Davis at center with Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson at forward. J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson start in the backcourt.
CSN will have two quality college basketball matchups on Saturday as two Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge games will be featured live.
Bradley (4-3) has Nevada (6-2) in town for a 7 p.m. game Saturday on CSN while Illinois State (3-2) will host New Mexico (5-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday on CSN+.
The Braves have alternated wins and losses all season as they hope to build momentum off of a road win over Eastern Illinois.
Freshman guard Darrell Brown paces Bradley at 15.3 points per game on 48 percent three-point shooting while junior guard JoJo McGlaston is putting up 12.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per contest.
Nevada enters this one winning four of their last five games as senior guard Marcus Marshall is averaging 20.0 points and 3.9 assists per game. Sophomore forward Cameron Oliver has been generating some pro buzz as he's averaging 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44 percent from three-point range.
In the second contest, Illinois State is hoping for a key non-conference win against a quality opponent. Senior forward Deontae Hawkins is doing some solid damage as he's averaging 16.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while junior forward MiKyle McIntosh is at 14.2 points and 7.2 rebounds a game.
Proviso East product Paris Lee is also having a good year at guard for Illinois State.
New Mexico is led by a former area product as Homewood-Flossmoor graduate Tim Williams is averaging 19.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for the Lobos. Junior guard Elijah Brown, the son of former NBA coach Mike Brown, is also playing well for New Mexico as he's putting up 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
Reinforcements are on the way for the Bulls bench as Doug McDermott could be back late next week, passing the next step in the concussion protocol before Friday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and being cleared for contact practices.
He’ll probably miss the stretch of four games in five nights that started Friday, but it’s a possibility he can play next Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs at the United Center if he can get his conditioning under control and not suffer any setbacks.
McDermott missed his eighth straight game Friday after suffering a concussion from a fall against the Wizards on Nov. 12. It’s his second concussion of the season and it was clear the Bulls and team doctors were being careful with the third-year forward.
“He’s gotta go through some practices before he’s fully cleared, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg before Friday’s game.
The bench has suffered mightily with McDermott and Michael Carter-Williams out, and there’s a chance he could get back on the floor late next week too if all things work out.
With McDermott, who’s averaged 10.6 points and shot 36 percent from 3 this season (43 percent last year), his return will push other players into more natural positions and presumably, lessen the pressure the bench has been under considering the way its underwhelmed recently.
The Bulls won’t have a practice day until after Thursday’s game, so he may go to Hoffman Estates to get some run before getting back to real action.
And considering he’s had two concussions, he’s gotta feel confident in playing again and secure enough that he won’t be afraid of another concussion occurring.
“It’s gonna take him at least a couple days to have full practices. He may practice with the Windy City (D-League team), contact,” Hoiberg said. “The big thing for him is the mental hurdle of going out and getting hit. The physicality this game presents. That’s as big as anything for Doug to clear that final hurdle.”
The Bulls went 3-for-18 against the Cavaliers from three-point range despite their 111-105 win, and those numbers have been more commonplace recently, especially with the struggles of Nikola Mirotic and Isaiah Canaan off the bench.
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Canaan is shooting 29 percent from three and Mirotic is at 28 percent. The space has been limited and Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler have been more aggressively double-teamed as the shooting has gotten more scarce.
“Doug’s a guy, he had a 25-point game. He’s a guy the other team talks a lot about in their scouting report,” Hoiberg said. “Anytime you have a knockdown shooter, One of the top guys in the game, you have to gameplan for that. He’s missed, no doubt about that. It’s an opportuniuty for our young guys, no doubt about that. Doug’s got experience and our players look for. We run plays to get Doug shots.”