Dwight Howard hopes to return Saturday

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Dwight Howard claps from the sideline. (USA TODAY Sports)
Dwight Howard claps from the sideline. (USA TODAY Sports)

SAN FRANCISCO – Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard said he hopes to play on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets.

Howard has not played since Nov. 17 against the Memphis Grizzlies because of a right knee strain. He had platelet-rich plasma therapy on his knee on Nov. 20.

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Howard said he didn't consider playing against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night, and is aiming for the Nuggets game on Saturday.

"I'm just trying to do extra stuff every day and just gauge where I am at," Howard said Wednesday morning. "I feel a lot of better. My legs are a little weak, but I want to say that is from the long flight here. Get a good workout in tonight and hopefully try to play Saturday."

Howard showed signs of a nearing return when he took part in an intense workout on Sunday in Houston, a source said. Howard, however, preferred the extra days before the Nuggets game to get the rust off and improve his conditioning and strength in his legs. Howard added that he is in better shape now than before the injury.

"The problem was the cartilage was wearing down," the 29-year-old Howard said. "I have been playing basketball for a very long time. When you have the bone rubbing on bone it just brings a lot of pain. Every step or every movement I was making, it was just a lot of pain. I didn't want to put myself or my teammates through that by trying to play through that.

"It was something that needed to go away in order for me to be where I need to be as a player and be where my teammates need me to be every night. I'm happy that a lot of stuff has gone away. The best thing I can do now is to do the best I can do to prevent it from happening again."

Howard averaged 18.8 points on 57.5 shooting and 11.3 rebounds in 10 games this season. The Rockets have a 7-2 record during Howard's absence, despite having their share of injury problems. The Rockets entered Wednesday with the Western Conference's fourth-best record at 16-4 and the NBA's second-best defense allowing 94.1 points per game.

"Dwight is obviously a key piece to this team, but we have a lot of guys who are contributing and playing extremely well right now, guys that are stepping up," said Rockets guard James Harden, who expects to play against Golden State despite recent back spasms. "We definitely have the injury bug going around. Guys are having the opportunity to play more minutes and are producing. Hopefully, we can get him back soon. Until then, we have to just keep winning games."

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