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Dwight Howard to sit preseason finale for Rockets, says not to worry

HOUSTON -- Rockets center Dwight Howard won't play in the preseason finale against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, but he will be ready for the start of the regular season.

Howard has played in just one preseason game and hasn't fully practiced since Oct. 5 because of back tightness, but he said Wednesday he's getting ready for the regular season.

"I would love to [play against the Spurs]," Howard said after doing limited drills in practice. "The most important thing is my body is ready for the long haul. We got a long season, and my teammates need me to be healthy, and I don't think playing in a preseason game to prove to everybody I can play is necessary. The most important thing is that I'm healthy and in pretty good shape for go time."

Howard missed a career-high 41 games last season with a variety of injuries. A swollen right knee cost him 26 games, but he returned in time for the postseason, averaging 16.4 points and 14 rebounds per game.

Howard suffered a Grade 1 strain of his left knee in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals but didn't miss any games because of it. At the start of training camp, the Rockets had a plan to monitor his minutes in preseason games, and coach Kevin McHale said he wanted Howard to play in six of the eight games.

When Howard suffered some stiffness on the right side of his back after the preseason opener, the team decided to be cautious with him.

Howard's current issue isn't related to the back surgery he had before the 2012-13 season with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I had surgery on the left side on my back, but that was almost three years ago," he said. "There is tightness [right in my] lower back. Anybody knows about sports and playing a lot of basketball you use your hips and legs a lot and, unfortunately for me, I use mine more than most people. Just my hips and everything got tight from doing a lot of work and working out all summer, and it's different than training camp work. So my body just reacted to it. It's not anything structurally wrong with my back."