Lakers: Dwight Howard set for preseason debut

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.

He prepared for Sunday’s game quietly in the Lakers’ locker

room, listening to music on his headphones while putting on his

uniform. Howard has inherited Bynum’s locker near the door to the

training room – and he also has Bynum’s habit of wearing his

headphones only half-covering his ears, allowing his teammates to

hear his tunes.

When asked if he expected to be nervous, Howard replied: ”I

don’t know. We’ll see when I get out there.”

Brown says he’ll play his starters more extensively in the

Lakers’ final three preseason games to build chemistry for the

regular season, using them together at the start of most quarters

and finishing the game with his top five. Howard will start

alongside Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace in Los Angeles’

frontcourt, allowing Gasol to move out of the middle of Los

Angeles’ defense.

”We’re going to finish the game with our starters, and we did

game-plan a couple of things for Sacramento,” Brown said. ”So I’m

excited to see if the guys can execute a couple of things.”

Backup forward Jordan Hill was held out of the lineup for the

Lakers, although he has returned to practice after herniating a

disc in his back earlier in training camp.