Just as practice ended, the Lakers’ frontline in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol performed a move that usually leaves defenders off balance.
But this time, it involved a sea full of reporters. Gasol entered the media scrum, while Howard hoped to sneak into the trainer’s room. But to no avail. It’s understandable considering Howard knows the question before the media asks.
Has Howard rehabbed his surgically repaired back enough to play in a exhibition season game? Because he hasn’t, Howard won’t appear in Tuesday’s game as the Lakers host the Utah Jazz at Anaheim’s Honda Center.
“I want to play, but at the same time I want to make sure I’m in good shape,” Howard said at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “There’s no pain in my back. The biggest thing is trying to be in shape.”
Howard currently doesn’t have any practice restrictions. For the past 10 days, Howard has practiced in full-court five-on-five scrimmages with contact. Howard’s spent his time after practices and before games working out with assistant coaches Chuck Person and Darvin Ham.
Howard has performed this without any reported setbacks. But Lakers Coach Mike Brown has maintained the team’s training staff has taken the “big picture” in not rushing Howard’s return.
“They’ve given me some information in terms of dates they may target and may not target,” Brown said. “But I’m just going to wait for them. Instead of me putting something out there, I’ll just wait until he’s cleared. It’s all guessing right now.
So is there something Howard must do before Lakers trainer Gary Vitti will clear him?
“He has to bike from Beverly Hills to Anaheim during rush hour on a 10-speed,” Brown joked. “If he does that, Gary will release him. But I still have to check with Gary.”
In all seriousness, Howard just wants to ensure he doesn’t suffer from fatigue as quickly as he has during practices. During his sessions with Person and Ham, Howard said they’ve emphasized improving his core.
“Every time you stand forward without using your legs, you’re putting more pressure on your back,” Howard said.” I’m just doing little things that will help me stabilize my back more. It’s hard. Just like with anything, when you’ve been doing things for a long time a certain way, it’s a transition to do it a different way.”
So is returning to the court. But as Howard’s maintained all along, he’s not rushing it. Hence, why he tried avoiding the media scrum. It didn’t work.