With training camp and preseason starting in a little under a month, one uncertainty still looms over the Lakers roster; when is Dwight Howard's back going to be back? With the Lakers refusing to give a time frame, any progress for the big man should be considered a step in the right direction, and Kevin Ding of The OC Register reported on Monday that Dwight Howard had his first training session with Gary Vitti and Judy Seto at the Lakers' training facility...
...The fact that he can do all the running and sliding and stepping he can - besides other exercises more taxing for his back - with seven weeks until the first game and three weeks until the first practice is certainly reason for optimism. (And for all that he still can't do, Howard has at least been working on his free throws, yes.) - Kevin Ding, The OC Register
While he isn't playing in a full contact game, or taking a Kevin Garnett forearm to his lower back, the fact that he's mobile is a good sign for Los Angeles. Through the summer there were reports that he wasn't even in running shape yet, which set off red flags in trading for the superstar center. Still, the Lakers ponied up Andrew Bynum, his gigantic knee brace, and a bit of cap space, and clearly believe Howard will return to elite form despite coming off of surgery. A back injury can be debilitating to any career, which is why both the Lakers and Dwight have echoed the same sentiment repeatedly; 100% health is the number one concern, there will be no rush or corners cut. This is a long term strategy.
However, despite the optimistic update from Monday, today the Lakers announced that Dwight Howard will be unavailable for the October 2nd practice to kick off training camp, and the October 7th preseason opener against the Golden State Warriors in Fresno. Still, the report reiterates that there have been no setbacks, and the recovery has been going well.
The stance the Lakers have taken in regards to Dwight Howard's recovery (aka no stance) has certainly raised questions. The Lakers are simply doing what's best for Dwight Howard as there isn't much to gain by putting a return date that may, or may not, come to fruition. Even if today they were confident he'd be ready by the last preseason game, too much can happen during the recovery process between now and then to commit. Everybody already knows Dwight Howard will be coming back, it's all a matter of when. When he's ready to come back, it will happen, and putting a concrete date on when that may happen doesn't expedite his recovery. Howard is their franchise player of today and hopefully tomorrow. There were many things to learn from the "Dwightmare" saga, but none more important than this for the Lakers, who are hoping to keep him much longer than the final year of his contract: Dwight Howard does not respond well to being put on the spot through adversity. While there will still be pressure for Dwight to be out on the floor for the season opener against Dallas, the Lakers are doing their best to keep any noise about his recovery to a minimum, protecting their investment. They only get to cash in on Andrew Bynum once.
So, what does this mean to us? More waiting. More crossing days off the calendar until October. Hang in there everyone, we're getting closer.