Lakers center Dwight Howard says he wants to make sure that he's 100%… ( Jonathan Ferrey / Getty…)
Before Dwight Howard can rebuild his reputation, he first has to fully rebuild his back.
The public will probably give him only this season to finally win his first NBA championship in his first season with the Lakers. He's joining a star-studded lineup in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. The Lakers consider Larry O'Brien trophies as the sole gold standard in measuring success. And with everyone outside of Los Angeles upset at how Howard handled his departure from the Orlando Magic, such failure to win a ring would only exacerbate the criticism and spark uncertainty as to whether Howard will stay with the Purple & Gold beyond this season.
But as far as recovering from offseason back surgery, both Howard and the Lakers have maintained a long-term outlook. In ESPN's "Sunday Conversation," Howard maintained that "there's no timetable" and "no target date" for his return.
"When I'm 100%, I will step on the floor and play," Howard said. "I don't want to play at 85% or 80%. I want to be at 100%. I want to give all that to this city, to this team, to myself, to basketball and to all of the fans. I want to give them 100% every single night. I don't want to have any relapses. when i'm 100%, you will see me giving 100% on the court."
The Lakers confirmed last week that Howard would miss the Lakers' preseason opener Oct. 7 in Fresno against the Golden State Warriors. He began workouts last week with the Lakers' training staff, including core stabilization, upper and lower body strengthening, light running and shooting. But he isn't expected to participate in training camp beginning Oct. 2. At his introductory press conference Aug. 10, Howard acknowledged the uncertainty regarding if he'd even dress for the season opener Oct. 30 against the Dallas Mavericks.
Still, Howard said "rehab is going great" and added, "I'm getting stronger and better every day."
That seems to be a far cry from when Los Angeles-based surgeon Robert Watkins discovered in early March that Howard had a herniated disk. He then had surgery, which sidelined him for the rest of the season.
"I sat there for a couple minutes and I didn't talk," Howard recalled when he learned he'd need back surgery. "I looked around the room and thought, 'I can't believe this is happening.' It hurt so bad."
It hurt in various ways.
Howard said the pain in both his back and legs felt so severe that he needed to use a walker just to navigate around the hospital. Howard soon received clearance to walk around the hospital and then at the Beverly Hills hotel where he's been staying since.
Howard said he also felt a sting from various reports suggesting he exaggerated the extent of his injury because of his frustration with the Magic organization.
"It kind of upset me that people would think that way," Howard said. "But I understand that with everything that was going on, everybody was thinking this and thinking that. My focus at that point was I have to sit out the remainder of the season. I missed being there for my teammates. That really bothered me."
Howard has stressed that he's putting everything involving his hasty exit from Orlando behind him. But just as he's learned with his back surgery, the recovery remains a process.
"I'm looking forward to that day when the doctor says, 'Dwight here's your green light. Go out there and have fun,'" Howard said. "I'm getting there."
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