Dwight Howard addresses the media during his introduction at the Lakers'… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)
Amid all the smiles, imitations and jokes at his introductory news conference, Dwight Howard acknowledged a sobering reality about his Lakers' debut.
He admitted uncertainty on whether he could play in the season opener Oct. 30 at Staples Center against the Dallas Mavericks because of his surgically repaired back.
"We'll see what the doctor says," Howard said. "I'm not going to rush it. My back is very serious. I'm going to take my time and makre sure I get back 100%. I want to give everybody 100%.
Once his agent, Dan Fegan, alerted him about the trade Thursday night, Howard even admitted he couldn't run out of his hotel room in Beverly Hills to celebrate. Doctors haven't offered any timetable when he could perform such sprints, let alone return to the court.
After initially missing eight games because of back problems last season as early as March, Howard was informed that Los Angeles-based surgeon Robert Watkins had discovered a herniated disk. He then opted for surgery, which sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Howard disputed reports suggesting he had exaggerated the severity of the injury so he wouldn't have to play in Orlando.
"I've never been a quitter," he said. "I've played through a lot of things, so I've never been a quitter."
Since then, Howard has stayed in Los Angeles rehabilitating his back. Even though he lamented endlessly about being cooped up in a Beverly Hills hotel, Howard acknowledged that interaction with fans outside of his hotel helped convince him to accept a trade to the Lakers. Howard also has been spotted at Dodger Stadium.
Still, it's not time for him to resume on-court activity.
"Whenever [the doctor] says, 'Dwight you're ready to play,'" Howard said. "I'll be back on the court. Until then, I'll continue to rehab and get my back stronger. I haven't lost any weight."
It doesn't appear the Lakers feel that worried. General Manager Mitch Kupchak acknowledged a "concern" about Howard's surgery, but otherwise expressed optimism. After all, Howard only missed seven games during the first seven years of his career in Orlando.
"We're feeling sure he's going to be back," Kupchak said. "We're hopeful he's back for camp and to start the season. But we know he's going to play at a high level at some point in time."
Instead, Howard preferred gushing over the mere fact that the ongoing trade saga officially ended.
"I'm so blessed to be able to step on the court again," Howard said. "It means a lot to me. I'm just happy to be back. Just sitting down in the hotel room is very tough on somebody like myself. But God blessed me and I really apppreciate things more now than I did before the surgery."