Report: Howard says he will have back surgery

Dwight 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.com

Howard 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.