Lakers center Dwight Howard, left, and Portland big man J.J. Hickson go… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Dwight Howard isn't Dwight Howard.
He's not the dunk-tastic, shot-blocking force of energy under the basket that he used to be.
But why? The Lakers center continues to point to back surgery last April to repair a herniated disk.
"It's one of the biggest factors," Howard said after practice Saturday. "Coming off the injury, I only had four weeks to get ready for the season, which was training camp and then preseason. I didn’t really have a chance to really get in good shape. It’s hard trying to get in shape during the season playing a lot of minutes and traveling.
"I'm not even close. I used to play 45, 48 minutes without really getting tired. Now I have five possessions, I’m winded. I know I’m not there, but all that stuff will come. . . . I just know how much more effective I will be in better shape and that just comes with time. Unfortunately, it cost us a lot of games but we've got an opportunity to make history. I'm going to try and do whatever I can to help this team win."
Howard has shown shades of a revival, including his 19-point, 16-rebound effort in a 111-107 victory Friday over Portland.
He was incredibly active without the ball under the basket in the final few minutes. He kept alive a Lakers possession by batting up a loose ball off a missed shot, allowing Kobe Bryant to grab it. Then he stole the ball from Portland guard Wes Matthews. Then he blocked Damian Lillard's attempt off a spin move.
Howard's coming around ... slowly.
"For sure," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "All night he was active. Just a great game. That should be a norm for us."
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