After six months of back rehab and endless questioning about his return, Dwight Howard will make his Laker debut tonight when the team hosts the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center.
Lakers Coach Mike Brown said he doesn’t have any minute restrictions on the six-time All-Star. He also indicated that, barring any further setbacks, Howard will play in the Lakers’ last two preseason games, including Wednesday against the Clippers at Staples Center and Thursday against Sacramento on Thursday.
“I thought he could’ve played from my knowledge and experience the beginning of training camp,” Brown said. “He played well and participated in everything we have done for a while. He has been in most five-on-five stuff and so forth. But it’s not completely my call.”
The Lakers and Howard remained non-commital about his return even after Sunday’s morning shootaround. But Howard received medical clearance after going through the walk-through without any setbacks.
The Lakers could use Howard’s presence for reasons beyond the team’s 0-5 preseason start, becoming the only NBA team without a win. Brown also had hoped to play his starters the team’s last three preseason games that would be more reflective of what they’d need in the regular season.
Howard declined to speak to reporters before the game. But he indicated recently that he might be nervous.
“It’ll be the first time I’ve played basketball in a long time so I’ll probably be a little emotional,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t happen that way, where I get out there and start crying.”
As Howard sat on a courtside chair an hour before tipoff, Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham jokingly encouraged him to dunk the ball as hard as he can. He went through his usual pre-game warmups where he worked on a series of post-moves with Ham and assistant coach Chuck Person. As he ran through the entrance tunnel, plenty of Laker fans shouted toward him.
“Welcome to L.A.!” many of them said.
“He looks good in practice,” Brown said. “You would think he looks back out on the floor, but you never know.”
The Lakers will soon find out.
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