Dwight Howard’s debut makes zero almost tolerable for Lakers

Jack Nicholson wasn’t in his courtside seat. Denzel Washington, Magic Johnson and Dyan Cannon weren’t there, either.

They missed the good, the bad and the Dwight.

Dwight Howard was mostly solid in his Lakers debut, dominant at times and sprinkling in just enough mistakes to remind everybody he went 197 days without playing a game.

Howard had 19 points, 12 rebounds, four blocked shots and five turnovers in almost 33 minutes as the Lakers lost to Sacramento, 99-92, in an exhibition game Sunday night at Staples Center.

Howard’s return masked the fact the Lakers fell to 0-6, extending their worst start ever in exhibition play.

But, hey, it’s only exhibition season?

Howard made an impact before the game was two minutes old, dunking an alley-oop pass from Pau Gasol. He also blocked shots by James Johnson, Tyreke Evans and Travis Outlaw in the first half.

He gave himself a “B” grade, deducting points for poor free-throw shooting (three for eight).

“I think there were a lot of bright spots even though we lost the game,” Howard said. “We’re going continue to get better. I’ll say midseason, we’ll have everything flowing just the right way.”

He took a second-quarter bounce pass from Kobe Bryant, ripped through a foul by Chuck Hayes and made a layup. He also dunked an alley-oop pass from Bryant, tipped in Bryant’s missed three-point attempt and lightly dunked Steve Nash’s alley-oop pass.

It wasn’t all poetic, as could be expected for someone who hadn’t played a game since undergoing back surgery in April.

Howard had a dunk attempt blocked by Johnson and later was stripped of the ball by Hayes in the low post.

“You could tell his timing was off a little bit at times,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said.

He made eight of 12 shots, including a fluid left-handed hook in the third quarter and a dunk off Metta World Peace’s miss.

“I don’t think he looked particularly rusty today,” said Bryant, who had 21 points. “He looked normal to me.”

With the Lakers down three and their starters still in the game, Bryant missed a three-point attempt while moving to his right with 11.9 seconds to play.

The Kings made their free throws from there, making another Lakers exhibition loss official.

World Peace sustained a dislocated middle finger on his right hand and might need a splint for the next few games. He had 14 points and four steals.

TV talks ongoing

There are nine days left for Time Warner Cable to strike major distribution deals to carry Lakers games on DirecTV, Dish, Verizon, AT&T;, Cox and Charter. The lone agreement in place is with smaller Bright House Networks.

The Lakers begin the season Oct. 30 against Dallas, a TNT exclusive game, but Time Warner SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes will broadcast the Oct. 31 game against Portland.

“There is a significant demand from Lakers fans for these two networks and we are working very hard to reach agreements with all TV providers in Southern California so that fans can watch the games they love,” Time Warner said in a statement to The Times.

In an unexpected twist last Thursday, DirecTV aired the Time Warner SportsNet program “Laker Girls” instead of the scheduled “I Hate My Kitchen” on the DIY Network.

Was a deal imminent between Time Warner Cable and DirecTV?

Nothing was said to The Times by either entity to suggest the “Laker Girls” airing was a significant event.

“Yes, we often test signals before a channel launch, but only when we have an agreement in place and have the programmer’s authorization,” Robert Mercer, director of public relations for DirecTV, said in an email to The Times. “We are engaged in discussions with TW to carry the Lakers Net, but have not yet reached an agreement.”

To be continued soon, presumably.

Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.