The questions. The hype. The speculation.
About a preseason game, no less.
The upshot of it all is that Dwight Howard could make his Lakers debut Sunday against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center.
“We’ll see tomorrow,” Howard said Saturday, playfully. “What will make the final decision? What’s the guy from ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’
“‘Your final answer.’ That’s the guy. He’ll make the final decision tomorrow.”
Actually that guy would be longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.
“The guy to ask, the guy who has more information than me just walked through that door,” said Lakers Coach Mike Brown of Vitti. “He has not said that he [Howard] is playing tomorrow.
“My impression is that if Gary Vitti tells me he is going to play, then he’ll play.”
Howard’s progress seems measured almost on a moment-to-moment basis. The latest hurdle was Saturday’s lengthy practice for the Lakers, winless in the preseason. Howard, again, had a full practice, complete with contact, as did reserve forward Jordan Hill, who is not quite as close to returning.
“We’re still trying to watch out for the back, get my core stronger and see how it goes,” said Hill, who did not rule out being ready in time for the season opener.
As for Howard’s availability Sunday, the decision would probably be made after the morning shootaround. He had back surgery in April and has been practicing regularly with no visible issues.
“There’s no rush,” Howard said before Friday’s game in Las Vegas.
He was striking the same note Saturday.
For Howard, it wouldn’t matter much if his Lakers debut came in San Diego on Thursday.
“The first time stepping on the court, I’d just be excited to play,” he said.