DWIGHT HOWARD'S season is over. His chances to help Team USA win another Olympic gold are likely done, too. Orlando's All-Star center told ESPN.com he will have season-ending back surgery.
Friday's operation in Los Angeles to repair a herniated disk also will keep him from playing in the Olympics in London, Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, told ESPN.com.
"I tried to play through it and it just made my back worse," Howard said.
Howard has been dealing with back problems since early March, but it wasn't until last week that a doctor discovered the herniated disk.
"He said I can start rehab right away and be back to full contact in 4 months," Howard told ESPN.com. "So I'm not really concerned. If anything, I'll come back stronger."
Howard has missed the last six games because of the injury. Orlando holds the sixth playoff spot in the East, and coach Stan Van Gundy said last week that he was preparing to play the rest of the season without Howard.
Now it looks as if Team USA will have to plan to play without Howard as well.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo told the Associated Press on Thursday night that he hadn't been told of Howard's decision yet. He also said it was too early to speculate on what they do with Howard out.
Howard was the subject of season-long trade rumors until declaring in February his intention to remain in Orlando for one more year. The controversy continued earlier this month when Van Gundy said Howard asked team management to fire him. Howard has since denied that.
Before this season, Howard had only missed two games in his career because of injury.
In Thursday's games *
At Miami, LeBron James had 27 points and 11 rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 18 points and the Heat tightened up the Eastern Conference playoff race by beating the Chicago Bulls, 83-72, in a scuffle-filled game.
Mario Chalmers scored 16 points and Udonis Haslem grabbed 10 rebounds for Miami, which held the Bulls to a season-low point total and moved within 1 1/2 games of Chicago in the East race.
* At Indianapolis, Danny Granger scored 29 points to help the Indiana Pacers beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 118-109, and clinch homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
* At Auburn Hills, Mich., Nikola Pekovic scored 23 points and the Minnesota Timberwolves ended an 11-game losing streak with a 91-80 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
* At New Orleans, Eric Gordon scored 27 points, Carl Landry had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and the Hornets dealt a blow to Houston's playoff hopes with a 105-99 overtime victory, the Rockets' sixth straight loss.
Houston dropped one game behind Utah for the final playoff spot in the West with three games left.