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Dwight Howard sits out Wizards’ opener with sore buttocks

Washington Wizards' Dwight Howard stands near to Chris Chiozza (4) during an NBA basketball media day, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dwight Howard sat out the Washington Wizards’ season opener Thursday night with what the team said is a sore buttocks.

Washington’s new starting center missed all of training camp and the entire exhibition schedule. He did not participate in any practices at all until Monday.

Coach Scott Brooks said before the Wizards hosted the Miami Heat that Ian Mahinmi would replace Howard in the lineup for Game 1.

“He’s getting close,” Brooks said about Howard, who did not miss a single game because of injury last season with the Charlotte Hornets.

The center played in 81 of 82 games for Charlotte, missing one because of suspension.

On Thursday, Howard went out to the court pregame and took shots.

“We just don’t feel like he’s quite there yet. Like I said a few weeks ago, we’re in no rush. We just want to make sure that he’s comfortable — we’re comfortable — going forward,” Brooks said. “He’s definitely going to miss tonight and, going forward, we don’t know.”

Washington’s next game is at home against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.

The Wizards traded away starting center Marcin Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers and added Howard, who’ll turn 33 in December, on a two-year, $11 million contract with a player option. He averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds last season and is now with his fourth team in four years.

At Washington’s media day last month, Howard said his soreness resulted from traveling to China for offseason promotional appearances and called it “just a minor setback.”

The 6-foot-11 Howard is entering his 15th NBA season.

“We’re just trying to find ways and opportunities to challenge him and push him,” Brooks said. “We just need to keep giving him conditioning.”

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