Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 4/13/12
ORLANDO Magic forward Glen Davis just shook his head when he heard the news about center Dwight Howard, who is expected to miss the rest of the regular season and potentially the playoffs with a herniated disc in his back. It was announced Friday night after the Magic were embarrassed, 109-81, by the Atlanta Hawks, and after Howard had gone to Los Angeles to get a second medical opinion. Davis didn't need to hear what the doctors had said. There was no surprise in his voice when told the diagnosis. He saw it coming weeks ago. In his first year with the Magic, Davis never could understand why Howard played so many minutes. "We played him too much," Davis said while sitting in front of his locker after Friday's debacle. "It's crazy that it happened, but I'm not surprised. With the pounding he takes every night anyone can see the pounding -- we were playing him too much." Howard, who was considered one of the league's most durable players, has broken down for the first time in his eight-year NBA career. "Every night he takes a pounding, and we just kept playing him," Davis said. "He's human. I don't know, I'm just used to a different culture." Howard has played in all 82 games in five of his seven previous seasons, dropping to 78 and 79 games in the other two. He is averaging 38.3 minutes, fifth most in the league, and the most minutes in his career. When Davis was part of the 2008 NBA championship team in Boston, Kevin Garnett averaged 32 minutes. Paul Pierce, a wing player, led the team in minutes played, averaging 35.9. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, in his post-game press conference, said he was unaware of any diagnosis of Howard's condition. "I don't have anything," he said. Until Friday night, both Howard and the Magic were saying he had only back spasms, downplaying the severity. Magic spokesman Joel Glass said there would be no timetable for his return. "It will depend on how he responds to treatment," Glass said. Some NBA players in the past have returned to action after a couple weeks from a herniated disc if the inflammation subsides and the pain recedes, which still leaves the Magic some hope for the playoffs. The Magic (34-25) dropped Friday into sixth place in the Eastern Conference with seven games remaining in the regular season. Howard has missed five of the last seven games, and now has left the Magic scrambling and vulnerable. "It's going to be tough without him, but we can still win enough games," Davis said. "He's such a big part of this team, that everyone's role now will change. My role will change." There are NBA teams that still can win games without their best player, making up for his absence by pulling together and proving they are anything but a one-man show. Chicago has done it this season without Derrick Rose, Miami without Dwyane Wade, and even the Lakers have won without Kobe Bryant. The Orlando Magic, though, have curled up in a ball. They have lost four of five without Howard, and been embarrassingly bad on defense. In the four losses without Howard, opponents have shot 50 percent or better in each game. Denver beat them by shooting 56 percent. Detroit beat them shooting 57 percent. The Hawks shot 50.6 percent Friday, and the Magic offered very little resistance. "We just didn't bring anything to that game. We didn't run back, didn't get matched up. There was nothing we that we did defensively in that game," he said. "When that happens (four teams shooting over 50 percent), you're not putting anything into the game defensively." The Hawks led by as many as 35 points in the second half. Davis was the only Magic player to reach double figures. He had 16 points and nine rebounds. Reserve Von Wafer had 16 points. Things got so bad that the Magic were called for a technical foul late in the game because they took too long returning to the court after a timeout, contemplating if they really wanted to continue the embarrassment. The home crowd started booing. Without Howard, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, the Magic looked no better than the Charlotte Bobcats or the Washington Wizards, the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference. It really put into focus Howard's pre-season request to be traded, believing he needed to be elsewhere to have a chance to win an NBA title. He is expected back in Orlando on Saturday to begin getting treatment for the herniated disc. His return to the court is anyone's guess. The Magic, though, were certain about one thing Friday night, and that was a lack of defensive commitment without Howard in the lineup. "I would assume that people out there were trying," said teammate J.J. Redick. "But assumptions could be wrong."
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