Dwight Howard aims for Sat. return

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Injured Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard said Wednesday that he's aiming to return for the team's game Saturday against the Denver Nuggets.

Howard missed his 10th consecutive game with right knee soreness in Wednesday's 105-93 loss to the Golden State Warriors.

"That's the plan," Howard said of his potential return Saturday. "I don't want to put a date on it, but that might be the best time. We'll have a couple days of practice after [Thursday's game against Sacramento], and I should be ready to go."

The Rockets clearly have missed Howard's presence in the middle of their defense but have managed to go 7-3 without him behind stellar play from James Harden, who has averaged 31.2 points a game over the 10-game stretch.

"It's very frustrating," Howard said of his knee injury. "But the one thing that's kind of a blessing is the other guys are playing really great basketball, and it's only going to strengthen our group.

"It's a testament to everything that's been going on all summer. Guys worked hard this summer. We've really stepped up on defense. That was the one thing we all said after last year, 'We've got to play defense now. It can't be one or two people, it has to be the whole team.'"

Howard initially began to experience soreness in his knee Nov. 17 against Memphis. He said he didn't believe the injury was all that serious at the time and fully intended to play in the Rockets' Nov. 19 game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I went through shootaround, I warmed up, our trainer was working on it until 16 minutes before the game started, but it just didn't feel right," Howard said.

He ended up being a late scratch for the Rockets' loss to the Lakers. The following day he underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy to help restore the cartilage in his knee. Earlier this week, Rockets coach Kevin McHale said he didn't know whether Howard would return "anytime soon."