Magic preparing to finish season without Howard
Howard will miss his fourth straight game with a back injury Sunday against the Cavaliers. He was diagnosed with a herniated disk last week. Howard will rest the injury for 10 days and then be re-evaluated.
Van Gundy said before Sunday's game that he would consider it a bonus if Howard or forward Hedo Turkoglu, who is sidelined with a facial fracture, return at some point this season. The playoffs begin April 28.
"We're approaching it that the 13 (healthy) guys we have now are who we're going to have the rest of the season and in the playoffs," Van Gundy said.
Howard joined his teammates in Cleveland, but a team spokesman said he would remain at the Magic's hotel during the game. He will accompany the team back to Orlando, where the Magic host Philadelphia on Friday.
Orlando, which is sixth in the Eastern Conference, can clinch a playoff spot with a win Sunday. The Magic were 1-4 without their standout center going into the game.
Howard has missed six games overall with the injury. The team initially said he had back spasms. He hasn't played since scoring 20 points and grabbing 22 rebounds on April 7 against Philadelphia. Howard was diagnosed with the herniated disk on Friday in Los Angeles.
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.
Turkoglu, who has started 52 games, hasn't played 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 said he will keep his current lineup intact with Glen Davis at center with Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson at forward. J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson start in the backcourt.
"You never know, but that's who I plan to start the rest of the way," Van Gundy said.
Howard's injury is the latest drama in the Magic's ongoing soap opera that has grabbed more attention than the team's record. Howard has been the subject of season-long trade rumors until declaring his intention to remain in Orlando for one more year. The controversy continued earlier this month when Van Gundy acknowledged that Howard asked team management to fire him. Howard has since denied that.
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