It's official, folks. Per Mike Trudell, the Lakers.com beat writer, Dwight Howard will be in the starting lineup of tonight's preseason contest between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings.
When the Lakers traded for Dwight, it was unknown whether he'd even be ready when the season started. At the beginning of training camp, the season opener was his targeted goal. So, Dwight's availability a full 10 days before the start of the season, with three preseason contests remaining, is a huge boost to the Lakers' hopes of bringing their mix of talent to critical mass as soon as possible. Dwight's already been practicing with the team, but getting some live game situations in before the real stuff counts matters quite a bit.
Howard's speedy recovery is also a very positive sign from a long term health perspective. Prior to last season, Dwight missed just 7 contests in 7 seasons, a level of consistency us Lakers fans can not fathom out of the center position. But, a back injury in a big man is serious business, so there was some concern the Lakers would be getting slightly damaged goods this season. I have to believe that neither Dwight nor the coaching staff could possibly be stupid enough to risk bringing Howard back when he wasn't 100% ready for an exhibition contest, and if Dwight is already 100% physically before the regular season, he is already exceeding expectations.
In a preseason the Lakers have treated as an opportunity to boost the confidence of every opponent they've faced, tonight's is a contest worth getting excited about, for short and long term reasons.