Dwight Howard poses for photos on the Lakers' media day. (Reed Saxon / Associated…)
Uh-oh. Dwight Howard shot a bunch of three-pointers at the end of Tuesday's practice.
Another Andrew Bynum on the Lakers' hands?
Coach Mike Brown was in a jovial mood while watching Howard, even declaring that his long-distance shot might be used in late-game situations.
That won't happen, but the Lakers were elated to include Howard in some two-on-two and three-on-three drills with contact — long before he began lofting threes.
It would be a surprise only if Howard did not suit up for the Lakers' opener Oct. 30 against Dallas.
"Hopefully, I'll be back for some preseason games," said Howard, who had back surgery in April. "I think I'm going to need it for chemistry and all that stuff. But I'm not in a rush. These guys need me for the whole year, not for a couple preseason games."
When Howard returns to the court, the Lakers hope he shows something different from the past.
He worked for a month on his outside touch with Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person, known as the Rifleman in his playing days.
Person noticed that Howard's elbow dropped whenever he shot, so the emphasis was to raise the arm and release point to ensure he "shoots like a big guy and not like a guard," Person said. "Big guys don't need as much leg in their shot."
Howard's range has extended to 17 feet, Person said, about four feet longer than in previous seasons.
Person hoped the shot doctoring would also benefit Howard's notoriously poor free-throw shooting (58.8% career). Howard missed a staggering 2,361 attempts from the stripe in his first eight seasons.
"He's been so stiff and inflexible with his shot, so in order to create trust, he has to retrain all the muscles to memorize what you're trying to do," Person said.
Howard probably won't be shooting three-pointers in games. But it's only a maybe.
"You might see some," Howard said coyly. "Other than that, I'm going to my bread and butter, which is in the paint."
Howard continued to absorb the Princeton offense in the first day of training camp, going through up-tempo run-throughs with the other starters.
"It's tough for all of us. We're trying to learn it," Howard said. "It's a little bit different. It's a lot of movement, but once we get used to it we'll be fine."
The expectations couldn't be loftier for a team evicted from the playoffs in the Western Conference semifinals the last two seasons.
"Everybody expects us to go 82-0," Howard said. "There's going to be games where we don't play as well, but if we can keep those games down, hopefully we can have five bad games and the rest would be great."
He's, uh, big
In the weeks before training camp, Howard worked out in the post while defended by Person and former NBA power forward Darvin Ham, also a Lakers assistant coach.
"I'll tell you what, Dwight is strong," Person said. "He is probably the strongest person I've ever had to stand behind physically, including when I played.
"I've been around [Shaquille O'Neal], been around Tim Duncan, been around David Robinson. Dwight is by far the most gifted when you combine strength, power, quickness and all the other ancillary things that go with a post guy. If he continues to work at the pace he's working now, he could be one of the best centers to ever play the game because he has that skill set to do it."