First, reports stated that Dwight Howard was going to play against the Kings. Upon hearing those reports, Mike Brown noted that it was far from certain Howard would suit up and added that his big man would need to get through Saturday’s practice without any setbacks.
Well, Saturday has come and gone and with Dwight available to speak to his status, what do we know? It turns out not much more than we did on Friday.
“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.”
The Lakers have been cautious with Howard, taking the long view in his recovery. They need him healthy for the stretch run of the season and into the playoffs. In other words, in May and June, not October.
That said, the Lakers would be best served if they started to build some in game chemistry sooner than later. It’s one thing to get to practice together. And, by all accounts, Howard has looked great in that setting. But the real evaluation and the growing pains that come with integrating him into the lineup will only come with game action.
And there will be some growing pains. Howard is sure to be rusty after not playing in an NBA game since April. Plus, he’s joining an entirely new team with an offensive system he has never played in and players whose games, tendencies, and comfort zones he needs to learn. It will take time for Dwight Howard to look like the Dwight Howard we’re used to seeing.
The Lakers are also at the point in the preseason that there’s little to be gleaned from these games without Dwight joining his mates. The starters have looked good in his absence but the bench hasn’t yet found it’s stride. Most of that has been due to Mike Brown carrying 20 players and insisting on playing all of them, but it’s also reflective of the Lakers not being able to set a rotation that even remotely resembles what they’ll use when the games start to matter. Howard is a major domino in setting up those rotations.
You don’t want to put too much meaning into the preseason — especially for a veteran team like the Lakers. But all the newness with this team does present some hurdles to clear if all the team isn’t available to play. Howard finally taking the floor in games will help start the Lakers on the path towards where they want to go this year.
But until it actually happens the Lakers are effectively spinning their wheels and waiting. Maybe that wait ends tonight. Like Howard said, we’ll just have to wait and see.