Dwight Howard is primed to make his regular-season debut for the Lakers on Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks in the team’s season opener.
Howard admitted that he’s still shaking off the rust but is looking forward to the “popcorn and the lights.”
“I just want to get out on the court and play, get accustomed to playing games again. It’s a little bit different in the preseason,” Howard said. “I’m pretty sure teams are going to do their best to go at me on both ends on the floor.”
Howard played in just two exhibition games, averaging 14 points, 10 boards and three blocks.
He’s confident in his back after surgery kept him sidelined for nearly six months.
“I’m not worried about my back. I think my back is strong enough, but it’s not about strength at this point. It’s more about endurance, how long the muscles in my back last without getting fatigued,” Howard said. “That’s the area that we’re working hard in the weight room to overcome, fatigue.”
Coach Mike Brown said, as far as he knows, Howard can participate in back-to-back games. If he can find opportunities to give his All-Star center extra rest, be it skipping practice or sitting the fourth game in five nights, he’ll consider it.
Howard said he’s healthy and healed but his body is still working its way back.
“Anybody who has had surgery understands that when you cut open any part of your body, that area, those muscles they’re just basically shut off,” Howard said. “So you have to train those muscles. You have to train everything around it. Whatever you hurt or injured, you have to train those muscles back to get there to strong enough to be able to just to move . . . but it takes a while. I’m still in the process of rehabbing."
The 82-game schedule is often compared to a marathon. The Lakers open with a back-to-back set that will take them to Portland on Wednesday night.
Howard may not be at his best in October, compared with what he expects to be in April, but he’s excited to get the season underway.
“I would say now, if I was compared to a house, I have the foundation and the walls and everything but there’s no carpet on the floor. There’s no heating,” Howard said. “Right now the foundation is there; that’s what we’re building on.”