By The Associated Press, Associated Press
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.
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