Howard says he's ready for first U.S. basketball practice

ORLANDO -- Dwight Howard says he's been cleared to practice with Team USA when it meets July 21 to begin preparations for the Beijing Olympics.

Howard, who suffered a fractured sternum in the playoffs against Detroit, missed the team's first minicamp due to the injury.

He says he's ready now.

"I've been cleared to play," Howard said after a workout at the Orlando Magic practice facility. "It bothered me a lot. I tried to play as much as I could through the pain in the playoffs. I didn't know what it was until after the playoffs."

After practicing July 21-24, the Americans will play the Canadian national team on July 25 in Las Vegas.
They will play four games in Macao and Shanghai before arriving in Beijing.

The Olympic opener for the U.S. is Aug. 10 versus China. Howard says he expects to win gold.

"I did dream about it, standing on the podium, singing the national anthem," he said.