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Dwight Howard appears ready to play, and Lakers can use him

Lakers Basketball

The center, returning from back surgery, probably will make L.A. debut Sunday. Lakers are winless in preseason, and only Kobe Bryant seems in midseason form.

October 21, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times
  • Dwight Howard probably will make his L.A. debut Sunday.
Dwight Howard probably will make his L.A. debut Sunday. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Dwight Howard imitated Kobe Bryant's monotone way of answering reporters' questions, resting his head on his hand and looking as bored as possible.

Yep, he's feeling better.

Howard will probably make his Lakers debut Sunday in an exhibition game against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center.

He wouldn't confirm it, and neither would the Lakers, just in case Howard woke up with an unexpected ache in his back and had to postpone for another few days.

Barring anything like that, the six-time All-Star will take his spot at center for the 16-time NBA champions.

"It'll be the first time I've played basketball in a long time so I'll probably be a little emotional," he said Saturday. "I hope it doesn't happen that way, where I get out there and start crying."

The Lakers could use Howard, tears and everything. They're the only team without an exhibition victory. Their 0-5 mark is their worst start ever.

The starters have played sparingly, sure, but only Bryant looks to be in midseason form, averaging 20.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 points in 25.3 minutes.

"Can we play better? Yeah," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. "Is there some concern? Not yet. After the preseason, talk to me if we had a chance to play all our guys."

Howard was relieved to finally come close to playing. He gets asked how he feels a trillion times a day by reporters, trainers, friends, family members and, of course, the general public.

"I get it on Twitter all day every day: 'When are you going to play?'" Howard said. "Then you've got the people that are upset that I'm already back from injury: 'Hey, was he really injured?' I don't think people understand how serious that injury is. Some people never recover. Some people never get back as quick as I have.

"People want to see the new-look Lakers. I understand it. My job isn't to come here and play in the preseason. I came here to help this team win, and we want to win in June."

Howard's back is no longer an issue. The greater unknown will be his conditioning. He steadily increased his workload at Lakers practices and was cleared a little more than a week ago for five-on-five scrimmages.

"We do a lot of work to try to get me in shape. We do a lot of running," said Howard, who has worked out continually with Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham, a former NBA power forward. "Darvin does a lot of banging just so I can get used to the contact."

Howard averaged 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds last season for Orlando.

Benched again?

The Lakers' reserves were possibly the NBA's worst last season, failing to provide much of anything.

It was supposed to be addressed with off-season additions Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, but the Lakers aren't showing any burst with their second unit.

Jamison has averaged six points, shot 31% and made only two of 11 from three-point range. Meeks is averaging 4.6 points and shooting 23%.

"Jamison, you hope, is going to shoot a little better. I think he will," Brown said.

Matt Barnes led last season's lightly regarded reserves with an average of only 7.8 points. He is now with the Clippers.

Waiver wire

The Lakers cut undrafted rookies Ronnie Aguilar and Reeves Nelson, bringing their roster to 18 players.

Five players are fighting for one or two spots: Andrew Goudelock, Robert Sacre, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Greg Somogyi and Darius Johnson-Odom all have non-guaranteed contracts.

Sacre has played well enough in the exhibition season to earn a roster spot but the others are bidding for one slot, and that's only if the Lakers decide to carry the NBA maximum of 15 players.

Nelson, a 6-foot-8 forward, played at UCLA and averaged 1.3 points and four rebounds in three exhibition games with the Lakers.

Aguilar, a 7-1 center, played at Marshall High and Cal State Dominguez Hills. He scored three points and had two rebounds in four exhibition games.

Hill climbing

Reserve center-forward Jordan Hill practiced with contact Saturday for the first time since sustaining a herniated disk. He said he might play one or two exhibition games before the season opener.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

Times staff writer Lisa Dillman contributed to this report.

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