HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Dwight Howard trade made quite a splash last week, and for good reason. By acquiring Howard, the Lakers put themselves in the championship conversation and there was room for debate about just how bad of a package the Magic got in return for the league’s best center.
But one important aspect of the deal got a little lost in the hype of Howard taking his place as the latest great center to wear forum blue and gold: his health.
On April 20, Howard had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back. Since then, he’s been rehabbing in Los Angeles. But four months later, he’s yet to begin running, as he admitted at his introductory press conference on Friday.
So when exactly will Howard be ready to play? Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register digs into that question, and doesn’t come out with a concrete answer…
The Lakers’ understanding of Howard’s lumbar microdiscectomy (surgical removal of herniated disc fragments in the lower back) is that standard recovery time is six or seven months. Howard had surgery April 20, which his doctor deemed went without complication, so six months off takes him to Oct. 20.
However, Howard told ESPN’s Chris Broussard just before the surgery: “The doctor said it’s a one-inch incision. He said I can start rehab right away and be back to full contact in four months. So I’m not really concerned. If anything, I’ll come back stronger.”
Four months is just about now, so that’s not happening. Whatever is happening, it sounds fine to the Lakers.
They were granted the opportunity Friday morning to discuss Howard’s situation with his Marina del Rey-based surgeon, Robert Watkins, with whom the Lakers have a relationship.
“We feel very assured he’s going to be back,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “We’re hopeful he’s back for camp; we’re hopeful he’s back to start the season. But we know he’s going to be back and playing at a high level at some point in time.”
It’s might be safe to assume that Howard will be fine and at 100 percent by December at the latest. At worst, that’s a minor hiccup in the Lakers’ season.
But really, you never know how a player is going to recover from surgery. Just four months ago, Howard was seen as indestructible. Now, not so much. And while the league seemingly goes dormant for the next month and a half, the status of Howard’s rehab is a critical story leading up to training camp.