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Balky back affects Howard's, Magic's future

CLEVELAND — The NBA playoffs begin April 28, but the Magic does not know if its superstar will play, or be able to play effectively, by then.

All-Star center Dwight Howard has a herniated disc in his lower back that has caused painful, persistent back spasms.

Magic officials say no timetable has been set for Howard's return, as it will depend on how he responds to treatment and rest.

"It's a challenging issue while an athlete is trying to perform at a high level, and symptoms can change hourly," said Ralph Reiff, an athletic trainer and the executive director of St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis.

Physician Andrew Hecht, chief of spinal surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan and a consultant to the Jets and Islanders, said an athlete suffering from a herniated disc typically will begin with a conservative, nonsurgical course of treatment.

Discs sit between each spinal vertebra and function as shock absorbers and cushions. The discs consist of a gel-like interior surrounded by a tough exterior.

Problems arise when the gel either pushes against the wall of the disc or when the gel seeps through the wall of the disc. In those cases, pressure is put on surrounding nerves and can lead to pain.

It is unclear whether Howard's injured disc is fully herniated and leaking or whether the gel inside the disk merely is protruding from the disk. Both situations can lead to significant pain.

It's also unclear what, exactly, caused the defect in the disc's casing. It could be the result of a one-time incident or the result of years of stress on the back, or a combination of years of stress and a preexisting condition such as a pronounced curvature of the spine.

The Magic medical staff likely will treat the symptoms of the herniated disc by using electrical stimulation, ice and heat.

But those would not solve the root problem. Surgery to remove the herniated piece is an option, and the outcome is usually positive, Hecht said.

"If it comes to something like that," Hecht said, "90 percent of the elite athletes will resume their elite level somewhere between 12 and 16 weeks."

There there's the question of how it affects Howard's future. He is 26 and can become a free agent after the 2012-13 season. If his injury worsens, it could reduce his value on the free agent market.

Game highlights: Chris Paul scored 12 of his 28 in the fourth quarter and added 13 assists as host Clippers beat the Warriors 112-104 and got within a game of the Lakers for the Pacific Division lead. The Clippers have won 11 of 13, inching closer to their first playoff appearance since the 2005-06 season. "It's all about locking up a playoff spot. You got to get in," Paul said. "Anything can happen when you get to the playoffs." … Avery Bradley hit three straight 3-pointers and scored 11 of his 18 in the third quarter as the surging Celtics defeated the host Nets 94-82. The Celtics have won 10 of 13, and 20 of 28 to take over first place in the Atlantic Division. … Luke Harangody had 16 points and 10 rebounds and the visiting Cavaliers beat the Wizards 98-89 in a battle of teams that had combined to lose 23 of their 28 coming in.

Around the league: Lakers star Kobe Bryant will likely miss today's game against the Mavericks, his fifth in a row, because of his bruised left shin. Bryant is walking comfortably, but he hasn't tried running or jumping. … Continued soreness and swelling forced Celtics guard Ray Allen to miss the game against the Nets. Allen will also miss today's game at Charlotte, and his status for Tuesday at New York is "50-50," coach Doc Rivers said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Clippers 112, Warriors 104

GOLDEN STATE (104): D.Wright 7-15 5-6 23, Tyler 2-6 0-0 4, Biedrins 0-0 0-0 0, Jenkins 0-4 1-2 1, Thompson 9-17 2-2 24, Rush 8-13 3-5 22, Robinson 10-18 4-6 28, Gladness 1-3 0-0 2, McGuire 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 37-80 15-21 104.

L.A. CLIPPERS (112): Butler 1-5 0-0 2, Griffin 9-14 2-8 20, Jordan 8-11 2-5 18, Paul 12-17 1-1 28, Foye 3-7 3-4 12, Martin 2-7 2-6 7, Young 2-4 1-2 6, Bledsoe 2-5 1-2 5, Evans 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 5-11 2-2 14. Totals 44-81 14-30 112.

Golden State 23 35 24 22— 104

L.A. Clippers 35 24 27 26— 112

3-Point GoalsGolden State 15-31 (Thompson 4-7, Robinson 4-8, D.Wright 4-9, Rush 3-7), L.A. Clippers 10-22 (Paul 3-3, Foye 3-5, Williams 2-5, Martin 1-2, Young 1-2, Griffin 0-1, Butler 0-2, Bledsoe 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsGolden State 48 (McGuire 11), L.A. Clippers 54 (Griffin 9). AssistsGolden State 22 (Robinson 8), L.A. Clippers 22 (Paul 13). Total FoulsGolden State 26, L.A. Clippers 18. TechnicalsTyler, Butler, Griffin. A19,060.

Cavaliers 98, Wizards 89

CLEVELAND (98): Gee 3-8 5-5 11, Harangody 6-11 3-4 16, Thompson 5-11 4-4 14, Sloan 6-10 1-2 13, Parker 4-5 7-8 15, Casspi 3-5 2-2 8, Hudson 3-7 3-6 10, Samuels 0-1 0-0 0, Harris 2-5 2-2 7, Walton 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 34-66 27-33 98.

WASHINGTON (89): C.Singleton 1-3 0-0 2, Vesely 5-10 1-1 11, Seraphin 6-12 3-4 15, Wall 8-16 3-4 19, Crawford 8-17 1-2 18, J.Singleton 6-10 0-0 13, Martin 2-9 1-1 6, Mack 1-4 0-0 2, Mason 1-6 0-0 3, Evans 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 38-87 9-12 89.

Cleveland 22 28 23 25— 98

Washington 22 21 28 18— 89

3-Point GoalsCleveland 3-8 (Harangody 1-1, Harris 1-1, Hudson 1-3, Casspi 0-1, Gee 0-1, Parker 0-1), Washington 4-14 (J.Singleton 1-2, Mason 1-3, Crawford 1-3, Martin 1-5, C.Singleton 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsCleveland 48 (Harangody 10), Washington 42 (Vesely 11). AssistsCleveland 17 (Parker 5), Washington 20 (Wall 9). Total FoulsCleveland 17, Washington 22. A17,200.

Celtics 94, Nets 82

BOSTON (94): Pierce 6-16 4-5 17, Bass 7-12 4-5 18, Garnett 8-16 5-6 21, Rondo 2-8 0-2 4, Bradley 7-14 1-2 18, Stiemsma 3-4 0-0 6, Pietrus 2-5 1-2 5, Pavlovic 0-3 0-0 0, Moore 2-3 0-0 5, Hollins 0-0 0-0 0, J.Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 37-81 15-22 94.

NEW JERSEY (82): Stevenson 2-5 1-1 5, Humphries 3-9 0-0 6, S.Williams 0-1 0-0 0, D.Williams 3-12 6-7 12, Brooks 6-17 0-0 13, J.Williams 6-11 0-0 12, Green 6-14 0-0 15, Morrow 1-8 2-2 5, Petro 2-3 0-0 4, A.Johnson 2-4 2-2 6, Gaines 1-3 1-2 4. Totals 32-87 12-14 82.

Boston 22 26 26 20— 94

New Jersey 28 20 13 21— 82

3-Point GoalsBoston 5-14 (Bradley 3-4, Moore 1-1, Pierce 1-4, Rondo 0-1, Pietrus 0-2, Pavlovic 0-2), New Jersey 6-22 (Green 3-6, Gaines 1-2, Brooks 1-3, Morrow 1-5, Stevenson 0-2, D.Williams 0-4). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsBoston 61 (Garnett 12), New Jersey 47 (J.Williams 14). AssistsBoston 28 (Rondo 15), New Jersey 19 (D.Williams 14). Total FoulsBoston 19, New Jersey 20. TechnicalsPietrus, Boston defensive three second, New Jersey Coach A.Johnson, D.Williams, New Jersey defensive three second. A18,711 (18,711).

Balky back affects Howard's, Magic's future 04/14/12 [Last modified: Sunday, April 15, 2012 12:00am]

    

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