Howard looks to put injuries behind him

As one of the centerpieces of the Dallas Mavericks’ first run to the NBA Finals, in 2006, Josh Howard couldn’t help but feel a bit prideful as he watched the Mavs’ march to the 2011 title. Even though he was a year-plus removed from the team with which he had spent his first six-and-a-half professional seasons, and even though he had likely compiled more time in rehab than on the court since his departure.

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“I was happy for the guys who were there when I was there in 2006 when we lost,” Howard said. “Jason Terry; Dirk [Nowitzki]; Darrell Armstrong, who was a player then but is now a coach. The strength and conditioning coaches; the front-office people. I was very happy for them.

“I was able to influence the team and kind of build to that point. So to see them win, even with me not being there, it kind of felt like I won.”

Now Howard is looking to earn some jewelry of his own. And finally overcome a rash of injuries that have sidetracked his career ever since the former Wake Forest standout was traded away from Dallas before the 2010 trade deadline.

Soon after being sent to the Washington Wizards, Howard tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The following season in Washington was much better, as he lasted only 18 games as a result of complications with knee tendinitis. Howard then signed with the Utah Jazz last offseason, only to again be shut down early because of injury -- this time, the culprit was a loose chip in the lateral femoral cartilage in his troublesome left knee.

After averaging 67 games in his first six seasons, Howard has played a total of 96 over the past three seasons. But the 32-year-old said he has fully recovered from a March knee scope.

Howard, an unrestricted free agent, said his status, like many other players’ in the league, remains at a standstill while the situations of more high-profile players are sorted out, but he hopes to continue his quest for that elusive ring next season.

For now, though, he’s just happy to be spending his summer on the court instead of in a rehabilitation facility.

“Rehabbing, that’s a very, very hard part of the game,” said Howard, who averaged 8.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in 43 games in 2011-12. “For me to get over that hump of not having to get through rehab has helped my confidence a lot. Getting in the gym the last three days, knock down shoots, move the way I used to move, it feels pretty good.

“So my confidence is up. My ability is there. I’m just looking for an opportunity.”