Lakers center Dwight Howard works out before a preseason game last week… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
LAS VEGAS -- There are some rules to Dwight Howard's return.
The Lakers center would make his Lakers debut Sunday only if he practiced Saturday and reported no ill effects afterward, Lakers Coach Mike Brown said Friday.
Howard would then need to be cleared medically by Lakers trainers in order to play against Sacramento in an exhibition game at Staples Center.
Howard did not take part in Friday morning's shoot-around, though that wasn't particularly unusual because he was already ruled out of Friday night's game against Sacramento at the Thomas and Mack Center.
"If he practices [Saturday] and our medical people at the end of practice say he can play, he's going to play," Brown said. "There's a chance he may not play Sunday."
Howard's back is not the issue. He had surgery last April to repair a herniated disk and was reporting no pain from it.
The greater unknown is his conditioning. He has steadily increased his workload in Lakers practices and was cleared last week to play in five-on-five scrimmages, but he would not play Sunday if there was even a slight question about his game shape.
If he played, he would probably sit out next Wednesday's game against the Clippers but take part in the Lakers' exhibition finale Thursday against Sacramento.
Reserve center Jordan Hill is not as close to returning as Howard, though he was expected to be ready for the regular-season opener Oct. 30 against Dallas. It would be a surprise if Hill played in any of the remaining Lakers exhibition games.
"He has not had a live practice yet," Brown said.
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