Dwight Howard Could Play For Lakers Sooner Than Thought

Dwight Howard was running and jumping and dunking at his first Los Angeles Lakers practice, a welcome sight for a team that said it did not expect the perennial all-star center to be fully recovered from back surgery in time for the start of the regular season.

Going by Tuesday, where he participated in a full practice, Howard certainly could be in the team’s Nov. 2 opener against the Los Angeles Clippers. In fact, he said h hopes to play in some preseason games to get some timing down with his new teammates.

“Hopefully, I’ll be back for some preseason games,” Howard said. “I think we’re going to need it for chemistry and all that stuff. But . . . I’m not going to rush it. I’m going to continue to practice. We’ve had some great practices.”

A source who witnessed Howard at the portion of practice that was closed to the media described Howard’s level of play to ESPNLosAngeles.com as “unbelievable.”

“He was dunking everything in sight,” the source said. “He looks like he can play in an NBA game today.”

Howard said he was not surprised to be going full tilt considering how hard he has been training leading up to the start of camp. But Howard’s effort did catch at least one of his teammates off guard.

“He worked just as much as everybody else, so that was good,” Pau Gasol said. “I didn’t expect that.”

Lakers coach Mike Brown said Howard had been working out six days a week at the practice facility with assistant coaches Darvin Ham and Chuck Person for the past month.

“He looked good,” Brown said.

As impressive as Howard was, Brown said the decision as to when Howard makes his debut will be up to the Lakers’ training staff.

“Whenever he’s ready, he’ll be ready,” Brown said. “It’s our trainers’ jobs. Our trainers do a terrific job of it. They’re out here the whole practice and if they feel they need to pull him out of it, they’ll pull him out.”

Ultimately, Howard tried to measure expectations as to when his first game appearance will occur. “We’re not in a rush,” Howard said. “These guys need me for the whole season, not a couple preseason games.”

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