LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dwight Howard is set to make his debut with the Los Angeles Lakers in a preseason game against Sacramento on Sunday night.
Coach Mike Brown says Howard is in the Lakers' starting lineup with no restrictions on his playing time. Howard finally will hit the Staples Center court in his gold No. 12 jersey just more than six months after the six-time All-Star center had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.
Howard didn't play in the first five preseason games for the Lakers (0-5), who acquired him from Orlando in August through a four-team trade that sent All-Star center Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia. The Lakers have been cautious, but Howard was in full practices with his new teammates during almost every session of training camp.
"I thought he could have played ... from the beginning of training camp, because he's been participating in everything for a while," Brown said. "But it's not completely my call on injury issues. ... He looks good in practice. You'd think he'll look good out on the floor."
Howard had refused to commit to any timetable for his return since his first day with the Lakers, saying he wanted to make sure he was fully conditioned for the grind of an NBA season before stepping back on the court. The talkative center also refused to speculate on the percentage of his recovery from surgery, even while his teammates could see no limitations in his practice work.
Last week, Howard acknowledged he might feel some nerves when he finally joined Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash on the Lakers' home court with the jerseys of Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hanging in the rafters.