Dwight Howard caught passes and penetrated in the post. He labored up and down the court. Even toward the tail end of Tuesday’s practice, the Lakers center went three of five from three-point range.
“You might see some,” Howard boasted afterward.
That might not be a good thing. Lakers fans remember all too well how Andrew Bynum earned a benching last year for taking an ill-advised three-pointer. But everything else surrounding Howard’s full practice on Tuesday five months after having back surgery sounded positive. So much that Howard admitted the possibility he will play before the Lakers’ regular-season opener Oct. 30 against the Dallas Mavericks.
“Hopefully I’ll be back for some preseason games,” Howard said. “I’m going to need it for the chemistry and all of that other stuff. But I’m not going to rush it. I’m going to continue to practice.”
The Lakers have already ruled Howard out for the Lakers’ preseason opener Oct. 7 against Golden State. But the Lakers also have seven other exhibtion games, including Portland (Oct. 10 at Ontario), Utah (Oct. 13 at Staples Center, Oct. 16 at Honda Center), Sacramento (Oct. 19 in Las Vegas, Oct. 21 at Staples Center, Oct. 25 in San Diego) and the Clippers (Oct. 24 at Staples Center).
On Tuesday, Howard practiced with the Lakers’ starting lineup as they soaked in elements of the Princeton offense. He participated in three-on-three, two-on-two and one-on-one drills with contact. Howard reported zero setbacks.
“I didn’t surprise myself,” said Howard, who is recovering from back surgery. “I’ve been working hard to get on the court. I’m going to continue to work hard. We haven’t had any setbacks so I’m going to continue to do what I can to get on the court.”
When that happens remains to be seen. Still, the Lakers haven’t expressed much concern about Howard’s rehab considering he missed only seven games in his eight-year NBA career prior to his back surgery last April.
Lakers Coach Mike Brown said Howard has spent the past month working six days a week with Lakers assistan coaches Darvin Ham and Chuck Person. Last week, Howard participated in various post up drills that involved Ham defending him with contact. Howard’s partcipation in five-on-five drllls on Tuesday didn’t feature any defense, but at least one teammate remained impressed.
“He worked just as much as anyone else,” said Gasol, who played with him in one-on-one drills. “That was good. I didn’t expect that to happen today.”
Brown wouldn’t say when he’d feel comfortable putting Howard in full-contact five-on-five drills. Instead, he said he’s deferred to the Lakers’ training staff on deciding what Howard’s body can handle.
“I’m not going to put him out there where he can get hurt,” Brown said. “I don’t know if he had any dunks. But he was competing.”
Once practice ended, Bryant pulled Howard aside and demonstrated a series of moves in the post.
“I just want to teach him everything that I learned,” Bryant said. “Just show him the ropes on how to manipulate defenses and how to play chess offensively. I’m mentoring in that department and trying to teach him everything he needs to know.”
Laker fans will also like to know when Howard will return. But he maintained he’s just centered on how his body will respond in Wednesday’s practice.
“All I know is that we had a great practice today,” Howard said. “I don’t know the date when I’m going to return, but I’m looking forward to (Wednesday’s) practice to see how my body feels when I wake up. We can only go by time right now and see how I feel after practice. We’re not in a rush. These guys need me for the whole season, not a couple preseason games.”
E-mail the Lakers blog at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Lakers blog on Twitter and on Facebook.