Two weeks after he originally was supposed to host a kids basketball camp in Orlando — a camp he withdrew from, citing the need to remain in Southern California to rehabilitate his surgically repaired back — Howard has traveled to China.
The former Orlando Magic superstar is visiting China as part of his annual promotional tour to the Far East for adidas, the shoe and apparel company he endorses.
Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent, deferred to adidas officials when asked why Howard flew overseas but did not appear two weeks earlier at his Orlando day camp. In a statement issued to the Orlando Sentinel, adidas officials said Howard was cleared to travel “just last week.”
In the statement, adidas officials said: “Since Dwight’s injury our focus has been on his recovery. His health has continued to improve and just last week he was cleared to travel. We are excited that Dwight is now able to participate in fan and community events as he continues to prepare for the NBA season. Dwight is an amazing athlete and outstanding partner with fans around the world.”
To be sure, Howard had remained in Southern California almost all summer after spending large portions of the 2011 offseason traveling to such locations as China, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, Spain and Tanzania.
This trip is supposed to be shorter than Howard’s prior trips to the Far East. Also, Gregg Darbyshire, the chief executive of ProCamps Worldwide, the company that runs Howard’s camps, said that, as far as he knows, Howard’s previously scheduled camp for kids in China has been canceled.
Howard underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk and remove disk fragments from his lower back April 20 in Marina del Rey, Calif. If he’s returned to Orlando since then, no visit has been publicized.
His camp originally was supposed to be held July 1-2 at UCF but was postponed and later rescheduled for Aug. 13-14 at the Orlando Volleyball Academy.
On Aug. 6, ProCamps officials e-mailed registrants’ families to let them know Howard wouldn’t attend because Howard needed to remain in Southern California to continue rehabilitating his back.
In the meantime, Howard was asking for a trade from the Magic, and the cancellation of his camp appearance ignited speculation that he simply didn’t want to face fans in Central Florida again.
The Magic traded him Aug. 10 to the Los Angeles Lakers in a complex four-team deal.
Rookie Andrew Nicholson took Howard’s place at the camp, and families who paid the $199 registration fee and were upset by Howard’s absence were given the option of receiving refunds.