Washington Wizards center Dwight Howard will not play in tonight’s season-opener against the Miami Heat, league sources tell Yahoo Sports. He still needs more practice time.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) October 18, 2018
Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, hasn't exactly been the picture of health for Washington this season. After missing the start of training camp because of back pain he reportedly visited a specialist because of a piriformis injury last week. That said, it makes sense of why Howard needs more practice time with the Wizards, who he signed with in July.
However, with the trade that center former starting center Marcin Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers for the edgy Austin Rivers, Howard is undoubtedly the best big man on their roster and his absence is a major blow as they face the Heat and All-Star center Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is a load to deal with inside at 7-foot-0, 265 pounds and has averaged 14.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game for Miami in his five seasons with the franchise.
He amassed 12 points, 18 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks in their season opener against the Orlando Magic. Considering that the Magic have talented big men themselves in Nikola Vucevic and rookie Mo Bamba, that line is even more impressive.
With Howard out, center Ian Mahinmi may get the start. A 10-year veteran with career averages of 5.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 16.6 minutes per game, Mahinmi has 92 starts in his career. He's a strong defensive player and determined rebounder with a fair bit of athleticism who has the size to match Whiteside inside at 6-foot-11, 250 pounds. Per NBA Advanced Stats, Mahinmi averaged 8.8. points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.0 block in 17.3 minutes per game in the preseason while shooting 70.0 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from three-point range (0.6 three-point attempts per game).
The Wizards will face the Heat at Capital One Arena at 8:00 p.m. ET.