Howard made it through Wednesday's morning session -- the first part of a scheduled two-a-day with an evening session to follow -- without any setbacks. The All-Star center continued to show no signs of his surgically repaired back limiting him in any way.
"I don't know when he's coming back or whatever," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "As much as he's practicing, to me, he's back."
Brown surely had reason to be optimistic after Howard followed Tuesday's 4-hour practice full of 3-on-3, 2-on-2 and one-on-one full-contact drills by going through Wedneday's morning session without a hitch.
But Howard still has a hurdle to clear before he's "back."
The Lakers are planning to hold a 5-on-5 full-court scrimmage Wednesday evening to start work on their defensive principles, but Howard is not expected to participate.
There is no scheduled re-evaluation date for Howard to be cleared to participate in 5-on-5 full-court drills, according to team spokesman John Black. Rather, Lakers trainer Gary Vitti and head physical therapist Judy Seto are constantly monitoring Howard's progression by keeping a watchful eye on him during practice.
"I'm still trying to regain strength," Howard told the Lakers' team website. "I'm not playing until I'm 100 percent. Just because I'm doing drills with the team or running up and down, it doesn't mean I'm ready to play in a game. There's a difference between running up and down and being actually out there battling. When I'm 100 percent and able to go, then I'll go."
Also, while Howard previously told reporters he would like to play in the preseason, he still is being ruled out of the preseason opener Sunday, according to Black.
"Just waiting for the doctors, the trainers and Dwight to clear him, and when that happens, he'll go full tilt," Brown said. "But he looks good out there, he does."
Kobe Bryant agreed with the assessment.
"This morning was a little light, we didn't do a lot of contact, but he was engaged in every drill," Bryant said of Howard.
Added Howard: "It was a pretty good practice. There wasn't that much contact (this morning), so we'll see how I feel tonight."
While Howard's health undoubtedly has changed for the better, he maintained Wednesday that his fun-loving attitude remains the same, even in the face of the pressure that comes with bringing the championship back to L.A.
"I take the game very serious, but I'm going to have fun," Howard said. "Just because I play for the Lakers doesn't mean I have to walk around and not smile and have fun. I think Magic (Johnson) played with a smile on his face, but at the same time, he got the job done."