To the dismay of Lakers fans living in Fresno, they won't see Dwight Howard on the court when the Lakers travel there Sunday for their first preseason game against the Golden State Warriors.
Instead, they'll be treated to the debut of a rookie center, either Robert Sacre or Greg Somogyi, in a star-studded starting lineup featuring Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace.
Brown insisted he was serious about the decision even though numerous reports indicated he would start Jordan Hill while Howard rehabbed on his surgically repaired back. Brown joked he might flip a coin to decide whether to start Sacre or Somogyi, but he promised those were the only two candidates for the Lakers' starting center.
The thought process actually makes sense.
"I just want to start a true center with the group so I can watch Pau [Gasol] at the power forward spot," Brown said after practiece Saturday at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo.
A few reporters, including myself, indicated to Hill he might have an elevated role. Hill said Brown didn't tell him anything about his role, but the reasons go beyond wanting to be secretive.
"I want to see Jordan Hill playing with the other guys coming off the bench and playing at power forward," Brown said. "It doesn't matter. It's only the first preseason game. I think guys would be OK if I started Darvin Ham," the Lakers assistant coach.
Instead, that honor will go to Sacre or Simogyi.
Sacre, a 7-footer from Gonzaga taken with the 60th and final pick of the draft, started all five games for the Lakers' summer league team, averaging 9.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 30 minutes. The 7-foot-3 Simogyi went undrafted, but the the former UC Santa Barbara product played for the Lakers' summer league team, averaging 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in 7.2 minutes.
Brown wouldn't say, but this lineup combination also suggests Howard's return is expected soon considering it's more and more unlikely the Lakers would have to sort out lineup combinations during his absence in the regular season. But Brown stressed the unlikelihood that Howard would play on Sunday because the Lakers' training staff hasn't cleared him.
"He looks good to me," Brown said of Howard. "We haven't taken him out of many things. He's gone full bore most of the time."
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