Josh Howard doesn’t know whether he’ll play against San Antonio in Utah’s upcoming Western Conference first-round playoff series.
Assuming he does — and that’s a safe assumption — he doesn’t know how much, or how many shots he will get. What he does know, like almost every other NBA player, is that he feels more than capable. He feels young, spry. Like the Josh Howard who used to terrorize opponents for the Dallas Mavericks. Or simply the Josh Howard who spent much of this season in Ty Corbin’s starting lineup.
Beyond that? Those kinds of inquiries should be directed at the man leading the charge.
“How much I’m going to play isn’t a question for me, it’s for coach,” Howard said. “I’m ready to do whatever.”
As auditions go, Howard’s 25 minutes in Thursday’s 96-94 win over the Portland Trailblazers was a successful one. Much better than Tuesday’s win-or-else victory over the Phoenix Suns. He scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
More importantly, the signs of a healthy Howard were there. He beat defenders off the dribble. He made his midrange jumper with regularity. The hops were evident, as he caught a rebound dunk over Portland’s defense. He ran the fastbreak and filled the lanes.
“He looked pretty good,” Corbin said. “He made shots, he had his wind, and he was active out there.”
Corbin conceded that Howard will see some type of run against the Spurs, who have been one of the best teams in the NBA this season.
What he wouldn’t concede is “extensive” playing time. Conventional wisdom, however, suggests that Howard will be a factor, if only in spurts.
He’s one of the only Utah players who can consistently get his own shot off the dribble, and his playoff experience with the Mavericks could end up valuable for a Jazz team that has precious little playoff experience throughout their roster.
And in playing a San Antonio team with so much depth in scoring off its bench, Utah has to be able to match that to have a tangible chance. Howard is an obvious candidate to fill that void.
“I felt good tonight,” Howard said. “It felt good to be out there and contribute. It felt good to be young again.”
Josh Howard file
Plays 25 minutes off the bench
Goes 5-10 from the field and grabs six rebounds
Received a technical foul for an altercation with Portland’s Luke Babbit