HOUSTON -- For a guy who once knocked Derrick Rose out of two games with hard fouls, Dwight Howard has developed empathy for the fallen Bulls star.
"It's just an unfortunate situation for him," Howard said of Rose's latest setback, a torn medial meniscus on Nov. 22. "He tried so hard to come back from the one (ACL) injury and then he got injured again.
"Injuries are not something that are easy to come back from. It's mentally draining. When I hurt my back, just trying to get back into it five or six months after not being able to do anything, you're watching guys play and it hurts. I know how he feels."
Howard said he hopes Rose returns at a high level and urged him to take whatever time he needs to get there. The Bulls have ruled Rose out for the season, including playoffs.
"In this age, people don't want to hear it takes time," Howard said. "They want it now. But injuries for us, we have to make sure with our career that we take our time to get back right. That's what he should do. He didn't rush last year. He shouldn't rush now.
"They're going to put a lot of pressure on him to play. Just because you see somebody out there working and jumping and running, that doesn't mean they're game ready. There's a big difference. Hopefully he takes his time and he comes back when he's ready."
Hinrich's health: Kirk Hinrich missed his third straight game with a sore back. The veteran guard said he's improving but wouldn't speculate on a return date.
"The whole second half of the Milwaukee game (Saturday), it was really bothering me," Hinrich said in his first comments since the injury. "It has been something that kind of has been talking to me for a week or so. I've been getting extra work, trying to stay on top of it. I just ended up after that game my back really locking up, spasming up. I've been trying to get it right since.
"Initially, there was virtually very little movement, very painful. I'm moving better but still very, very sore and very limited in my movements."
Layups: All signs point to the Rockets trading Omer Asik this week. "O is a great dude, a great friend and was a phenomenal teammate for us," Carlos Boozer said. "I wish him the best." ... Rockets coach Kevin McHale returned after missing three games after the death of his mother. "I gave him a big hug yesterday and told him I missed him," Howard said. "I'm glad he's back." ... Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau spent four seasons on Jeff Van Gundy's staff here and the two spent time together before Van Gundy called Wednesday's game for ESPN.
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