HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When is Dwight Howard going to be ready to suit up and actually play for the Los Angeles Lakers?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Nobody rocks a designer sweater better (you remember Howard from his introductory presser, above). But Lakers fans and NBA fans everywhere are itching to see what Howard looks like in action. And until now, we weren’t sure exactly when that would be. Howard is recovering from spinal surgery and there has never been a concrete return date given.
But he’s begun working with the Lakers’ training staff — his first day was Monday — and according to our main man Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register it was a “promising” first step, we could be getting closer to learning exactly when he’ll be ready:
Details are scarce and Lakers spokesman John Black declined to comment, but Howard on Monday had his first hands-on session with Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti and head physical therapist Judy Seto at the team’s training facility in El Segundo.
Howard is rehabilitating after April 20 spinal surgery, and no one has been ready to commit to a day, week or even month when Howard will make his Lakers debut. But the level of mobility and strength Howard is already showing has to be encouraging for anyone hopeful he’ll be jumping for that opening tip-off Oct. 30 against Dallas.
Howard insisted at his introductory Lakers news conference that he will not play until he is truly 100 percent. He also said this:
“Anybody who knows me and knows what I’m about: I would never quit anything and I would never fake an injury. I’ve never been a quitter. I’ve always been somebody who pushed through the end. I’ve had injuries before but I’ve never said anything about them. I’ve played through a lot of things.”
His history backs him up: He plays when he can play.
And the fact that he can do all the running and sliding and stepping he can – besides other exercises more taxing for his back – with seven weeks until the first game and three weeks until the first practice is certainly reason for optimism. (And for all that he still can’t do, Howard has at least been working on his free throws, yes.)
In his first six NBA seasons, Howard played 624 of 631 possible games. And even though he suffered the herniated disk last season – amid all the waffling about whether he really wanted to stay in Orlando – he gave the Magic plenty.
Howard’s durability this season will be a huge factor in how deep into the playoffs the Lakers play. So much of what they do this season is riding on Howard coming back from his surgery and being the dominant force he’s been throughout his career.
But it in the absence of actual court time with his new teammates, we’re left to speculate about what he’ll look like playing alongside the likes of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. You don’t need to be Miss Cleo to guess that a foursome that potent on paper will thrive in the flesh.
Still, there are no guarantees that it clicks immediately. And in the microwave/instant-results age we live in, the scrutiny on Howard and these Lakers will rival anything we saw from that crew in Miami two seasons ago.
A “promising” first day for Howard is a solid start …