Dwight Howard scored 19 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked four shots in his Lakers debut Sunday, but could not prevent Los Angeles from dropping to 0-6 in the preseason. Howard sat out the team's first five preseason games for precautionary reasons related to his surgically repaired back.
"I was a little rusty. It's a matter of just getting my timing back, and at the defensive end, just being there for my teammates," Howard said afterward.
The Lakers lost to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, 99-92. Aided by Howard's efforts, Los Angeles built an 11-point halftime lead before faltering over the final 24 minutes. The Kings outscored the Lakers, 28-15, in the third quarter, which turned the game around. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers in scoring with 21, while Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace also scored in double figures.
Los Angeles wraps up its preseason schedule this week with games against the Clippers and Kings.
The Lakers are set to face the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center this evening at 9:30 p.m. ET.
All eyes will be on Howard and the Lakers tonight. Not only is Howard new to the team, but he also has to coexist with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the rest of his teammates. It will be interesting to see how all of these veteran All-Stars mesh this fall, even if the games do not mean anything.
In his first eight seasons in the league, Howard averaged 18.4 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a night with the Magic. He was acquired by the Lakers on Aug. 10.
Rumors have been swirling that Dwight Howard will make his Los Angeles Lakers debut on Sunday in a preseason game versus the Sacramento Kings, but the team has slowed down the fast-moving hype machine. While Sunday remains a possibility for Howard's return from back surgery, the Lakers won't commit to his playing, citing his lack of conditioning:
Lakers still not fully committed to Howard debuting Sunday, saying he'll "possibly" play vs. SAC. Issue is game conditioning, not his back.
The good news for the Lakers is that Howard's back seems to have healed just fine. He has been participating in full contact 5-on-5 practice and has the go-ahead to play in games once his conditioning is up to par. The concern right now is that he could injure something else if he plays before he is in game shape.
If he does not play on Sunday, the next chance for him to get on the court will be on Wednesday in a preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers' regular season opener is Oct. 30 versus the Dallas Mavericks.
Howard underwent surgery in April to repair a herniated disk in his back and at one point there was concern that he wouldn't recover in time to play in the season opener. That does not appear to be the case anymore, but he will have an abbreviated preseason so it might take him some time to catch up.
Howard averaged 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds in 38.3 minutes per game last year. Alongside Pau Gasol, he is expected to give L.A. the NBA's most dominant front court and a chance to unseat the Miami Heat as NBA champions.
Howard, who was traded to the Lakers during the offseason from the Orlando Magic, has yet to suit up in Los Angeles while dealing with a back injury. As long as Howard doesn't have any complications or setbacks with the injury over the next couple days, the 6'11", 285-pound big man should make his debut Sunday.
Howard has been sidelined since undergoing surgery in April to repair a herniated disk. He has been practicing with the Lakers during preseason camp but has yet to suit up in any exhibition games.
An eight-year NBA veteran, Howard is widely regarded as the league's best center and should immediately bolster the Lakers' front court playing alongside forward Pau Gasol. In 54 games last season, Howard averaged 38.3 minutes, 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds.