Howard left early in the fourth quarter against the Warriors
after teammate Mike James fell backward into his knee. He had to be
helped off the court by two teammates, wincing with pain on his way
to the locker room.
His knee was examined in Houston on Tuesday, and he learned that
he suffered a second-degree sprain of the medial collateral
ligament. His loss comes at a particularly bad time for Houston,
considering that the playoffs begin in six weeks.
Howard is averaging 9.6 points and 5.7 rebounds in his first
season with the Rockets, who acquired him in the offseason trade
with Orlando that also landed them Tracy McGrady. His efficient
low-post game and blue-collar work ethic have helped the Rockets
climb back into the race for homecourt advantage in the first round
of the playoffs.
Houston has been slowed by injuries, with starting point guard
Bob Sura recently missing seven games with an inflammation of scar
tissue around his vertebrae. Reserve guard Charlie Ward, who has
been on the injured list since Dec. 26 following surgery for a torn
lateral meniscus in his right knee, will miss the rest of the
season after a blood clot was found in his right calf.
Howard's injury might have derailed what was one of the best
seasons of his 10-year career. He's advanced to the playoffs only
twice, with Washington in 1996-97 and Dallas in 2000-01.
Howard spent the past two years with Denver and Orlando, when
his teams went a combined 38-126 and each season finished with the
NBA's worst record. He has a career average of 17.2 points and 7.3
rebounds a game with Washington, Dallas, Denver, Orlando and
Houston, once earning All-Star honors in 1996.