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Dwight Howard injury: Rockets center leaves Game 1, doesn't return

A bruised left knee kept Superman out of the lineup when the Rockets needed him most.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, after returning to his All-NBA form in the first two series of the playoffs after years of injuries sapped his powers, is injured again.

Howard left Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors with a bruised left knee, and didn't play for nearly all of the fourth quarter. He was trying to get the knee loose on the exercise bike. At one point, trainers unwrapped it and felt around on it, had a brief conversation with coach Kevin McHale, and Dwight Howard didn't see the floor again. The Rockets fell to the Warriors by four points, 110-106.

After the game, head coach Kevin McHale said Dwight would re-evaluated tomorrow and his status seems iffy at best for Game 2 on Thursday. Dwight's best friend and frontcourt-mate Josh Smith was even less optimistic.

Dwight was in obvious pain on the sideline, and considering he came back way too early from back surgery and regularly played on balky knees this year, that says a lot. With him on the sideline, the Warriors got far too many open layups in the quarter and only squeaked by the Rockets in front of a manic home crowd.

But, there is always hope.

Howard actually said "hopefully I can play," which to me means something slightly different. We shall cross our fingers.