It appears the Orlando Magic will be without Dwight Howard for the stretch run in the regular season. The All-NBA center is suffering from a herniated disk in his back and the Magic will rest him for the next 10-14 days, according to a report from ESPN the Magazine.
Howard has missed the Magic's last two games and four of their last six with what was originally diagnosed as back spasms, but the news worsened when he got a second opinion. From the ESPN story:
Howard has been complaining of back pain since March, but it wasn't until he sought a second opinion by Los Angeles-based Dr. Robert Watkins on Friday, for what previously had been called back spasms, that he was diagnosed with a herniated disk. The disk is not fully herniated and non-operable treatment has been recommended, the source said, but "it's not 100 percent clear" if that treatment will work, and surgery remains a possibility.
There's a lot of foreboding in there for Magic fans. This isn't good news, especially considering the Magic are jockeying for playoff position. Without Howard in the lineup, the players who see the floor don't make up a playoff-quality team. If Howard can fully recover before the playoffs (they're currently locked into the sixth seed, three games up on the Knicks with seven games remaining, five against likely playoff teams), the Magic could make something happen. If he's limited, it's hard to see how that's possible.
For analysis and reaction from Howard's injury, check out Orlando PInstriped Post.