Stipulating the following before I continue:
I am not a doctor.
I don't have any real reference point to know what a healthy Dwight Howard looks like when he's practicing.
I am not a doctor.
All that established, I'll now say this: Between what we saw and what he and his teammates said Tuesday afternoon in El Segundo, Dwight Howard doesn't look like a guy too far off from game play. Certainly in the portion of practice we were allowed to view, Howard was running comfortably, working through 5-on-none offensive possessions as the Lakers install their new Princeton system. Even better, Howard participated fully in the portions of practice we weren't allowed to watch, and felt good after.
"We did a lot of work today. 2-on-2, 3-on-3, 1-on-1," Howard said. "We did a lot of drills. So it was pretty good."
Asked if he was surprised to do this much in his first official practice with the Lakers, Howard was quick to reply. “I didn’t surprise myself. I’ve been working hard to get on the court. I’ll continue to work hard, and we haven’t had any setbacks. I’ll continue to do whatever I can to get back on the court."
Whether by deflecting with the joke about the iPhone app measuring a player's health (material he recycled today) or simply avoiding the question, Howard has tried hard not to give any clues about when he might return. Still, he may have unwittingly flashed a signal when asked if it was possible he'd suit up for any of the team's seven preseason games. "Hopefully," Howard replied. "Hopefully I’ll be back for some preseason games. I think we’re going to need it, for chemistry and all that stuff. But like I said, I’m not going to rush. I’m going to continue to practice. We’ve had some great practices. Today was really good. So I’m happy."
When it was noted optimism about preseason games certainly implies greater optimism about the opener, Howard tried hard to backtrack. "I don’t know the date I will return, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s practice. I’ll see how my body feels when I wake up," he said, pointing out the goal is to be healthy for the entire year, and said goal won't be put at risk for a couple of meaningless games.
Certainly Howard's teammates were pleasantly surprised at his level of participation. "He worked just as much as everybody else, so that was good," Pau Gasol said. "I didn’t expect that to happen today."
Gasol worked with Howard, and didn't note any serious limitations. "We did some stuff together. We did some 2-on-2 together today. 1-on-1, also. So it felt good. Obviously he’s a great player. He’s a tremendous force, and it feels good to play with him (as opposed to against him)," he said.
But as Stephon Marbury once said, "The cat is out of the bag."
It appears Howard is healing up very nicely, whether he returns in the preseason, the opener, or soon after. As Mike Brown pointed out, they went live in 2-on-2 and 1-on-1, and Howard participated. They wouldn't allow that much activity if it put him at risk.
As it relates to Howard's debut in purple and gold, there are certainly reasons to believe the Lakers are in the business of underpromising and (hopefully) overdelivering. Good news for the locals, no doubt.
Kobe Bryant on the first practice, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash:
Kobe on mentoring Dwight Howard:
Steve Nash on the first practice:
Mike Brown on coaching the Princeton offense:
Gasol on what Andrew Bynum's role as a first option will be like: