Soon after the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Dwight Howard, it appeared that the center could miss the start of the regular season. Howard underwent back surgery that cut his 2011-12 campaign short, and a date for his return has not been set.
Now, it appears that Howard will be ready for the start of the season, and could even play in multiple exhibition contests.
"Hopefully, I will be back for some preseason games,” said Howard. "I think we are going to need it for chemistry and all that stuff." The All-Star met with the media on the first day of the team’s training camp.
Howard participated in L.A.’s entire light practice on Tuesday, but isn’t ready to play in five-on-five scrimmages. He wants to get back on the court, but says his main priority is remaining healthy for the length of the season.
"I don't know the date when I will return, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow's practice to see how my body feels when I wake up,” Howard stated. “We can only go by time right now and how I feel after practice. We are not in a rush. These guys need me for the whole season."
Because of the Lakers' new pieces, Howard stressed the importance of the team having some time to play together before the season begins. With Andrew Bynum off to Philadelphia and the additions of Howard and Steve Nash, L.A. is a very different team from a few months ago.
The Lakers will definitely be without Howard when they open the preseason on Oct. 7 against the Warriors. If the seven-footer is able to play in two exhibition games like he hopes to do, he could face the Clippers and Kings on Oct. 24 and 25.
When Howard returns, he'll see his first action since April 7. Before last year, Howard had not suffered any major injuries since being drafted. He missed only a combined seven games from 2004-2011. Now he will have to learn to play again after suffering a significant injury, for the first time in his career.
Having Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Nash in the starting lineup should help Howard’s transition back on the court. He won’t have to immediately be the focal point of the Lakers offense, and won’t be forced to play 40 minutes per game.
Bryant doesn’t think Howard’s injury will hold the team back from gelling early on.
"As long as he's in practice and able to go through things offensively, go through our system and stuff like that, I don't think it will be an issue," said the lifelong Laker.
Los Angeles will open the season on the first day of games. L.A. is set to host Dallas on Oct. 30 at Staples Center.