The Philadelphia 76ers were down a center on Monday night against the Utah Jazz as Joel Embiid was ruled out before tip-off with back tightness. After the game, it was revealed they were almost down a second center in Dwight Howard, as the veteran was dealing with family issues on Monday.
Following the Sixers' hard-fought 134-123 loss to the Jazz, head coach Doc Rivers mentioned that Howard was notified about the death of a family member earlier in the day on Monday. Therefore, he missed the team's shootaround in the morning.
While the organization suggested he take some time off and skip out on Monday's matchup -- Howard ultimately declined. He wanted to play. "Dwight had a very long, tough day today," Rivers said after the game.
"He had a death in the family. He didn't come to shootaround and didn't even show up to the arena until five-thirty, six o'clock. I assumed he wasn't playing. I told him he didn't have to play, and he said, 'Coach, I just want to get on the floor -- it's better than just sitting around the room.' I thought he was phenomenal."
With a heavy heart, Howard checked into Monday night's game for a total of 26 minutes off the bench. The veteran center drained five of his eight shots from the field for a season-high total of 14 points. Howard also notched himself a double-double as he collected 12 rebounds.
"It was great, man. It just shows the type of teammate that Dwight is," said Sixers veteran forward Tobias Harris. "He was playing with a heavy heart out there tonight. So, I just have the ultimate amount of respect for him. We're here for him as a team to uplift him and make sure he's in good spirits. It just shows who he is as a person. He's an amazing leader and is somebody who cares about the team and cares about helping us win."
Despite his questionable leadership traits in past seasons, Howard quickly established himself as one of the key leaders within the Sixers' locker room since signing with them back in November. It didn't have to take Howard stepping up and playing during hard times to prove he's all in on the team, but his presence on Monday night definitely proved he's the ultimate teammate.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sorts Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_