09-11-2012, 06:00 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Los Angeles
Ding: Rehabilitating Dwight Howard progresses to first Lakers training session
By KEVIN DING
Now that the Lakers have Dwight Howard, we want to know when they'll really have him.
On the court. In real games.
The Lakers don't know either, but they're starting to get a better idea.
Details are scarce and Lakers spokesman John Black declined to comment, but Howard on Monday had his first hands-on session with Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti and head physical therapist Judy Seto at the team's training facility in El Segundo.
Howard is rehabilitating after April 20 spinal surgery, and no one has been ready to commit to a day, week or even month when Howard will make his Lakers debut. But the level of mobility and strength Howard is already showing has to be encouraging for anyone hopeful he'll be jumping for that opening tip-off Oct. 30 against Dallas.
Howard insisted at his introductory Lakers news conference that he will not play until he is truly 100 percent. He also said this:
"Anybody who knows me and knows what I'm about: I would never quit anything and I would never fake an injury. I've never been a quitter. I've always been somebody who pushed through the end. I've had injuries before but I've never said anything about them. I've played through a lot of things."
His history backs him up: He plays when he can play.
And the fact that he can do all the running and sliding and stepping he can – besides other exercises more taxing for his back – with seven weeks until the first game and three weeks until the first practice is certainly reason for optimism. (And for all that he still can't do, Howard has at least been working on his free throws, yes.)
In his first six NBA seasons, Howard played 624 of 631 possible games. And even though he suffered the herniated disk last season – amid all the waffling about whether he really wanted to stay in Orlando – he gave the Magic plenty.
Besides carrying them early in the season (Orlando was 11-4 after beating the Lakers), Howard was downright "courageous" in playing through his back pain in his final game of the season, a victory over Andrew Bynum's new 76ers team. Former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy used the word "courageous" on Dan Le Batard's Grantland podcast in describing Howard's 20-20 effort with a season-high six assists that April night in Philadelphia.
Van Gundy said Howard could "barely walk" but played 44 minutes to snap Orlando's five-game losing streak, no matter that Howard was upset at Van Gundy at the time for revealing Howard's desire that the Magic change coaches. Howard had surgery less than two weeks later.
As much as the trade to the Lakers, Howard's post-surgery layoff sparked renewed appreciation for the life he loves to live. Although much has been made of Howard going to China to fulfill his Adidas promotional obligations after skipping his basketball camp in Orlando, Howard kept up his workouts overseas with his personal trainer Bryan Meyer.
Well before that, Howard got back to his small-school prep basketball roots by working out at the gym of the Windward School, Lakers guard Darius Morris' private-school alma mater in Los Angeles.
Now Howard is beyond the baby steps, is wearing his newly delivered purple Adidas sneakers with gold and white trim and is transitioning to workouts with the Lakers' staff.
Little things must first be lived through, even for legends, and that's where Howard is at now.
We don't yet know when he'll play that first game – the exhibition opener is Oct. 7 in Fresno against the Warriors – or whether he will live up to the legendary Lakers centers before him.
But Howard has increasingly indicated, including during his recent China tour, his intent to play long-term in Los Angeles. And even before the trade, Howard signed with powerhouse Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor and agent Jill Smoller for full off-court promotion.
Smoller represents Serena Williams, sprung Rick Fox over into the entertainment business and added recently Tim Tebow to her client list. (Smoller has also repped Dennis Rodman and was there once upon a time at the first lunch I had with Rodman – when he wore no shoes or socks but we still got service.)
The potential to follow a similar path as Shaquille O'Neal in the entertainment realm is clearly there for Howard. And O'Neal, whose mega ego couldn't handle Kobe Bryant in the present, is struggling to deal with that now that O'Neal has faded into the past.
Asked about Howard going to the Lakers by The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, NBA on TNT analyst O'Neal said: "I don't have a reaction. You have to care to have a reaction. I've got businesses to run. I always tell people that in order to step in my shoes you have big shoes to fill. For him, he's going to have to at least win three to get people's respect."
Well, O'Neal's pettiness aside ... Wilt Chamberlain is the one whom Howard has always idolized and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was very gracious in meeting with Howard recently.
Howard is the one here now. He's the one with the chance right in front of him to rise to greatness, and watching that achievement come to life inspires people far more than what's already in record books.
That's why the Lakers are thinking big, big picture with Howard.
But if he's ready for Game 1, that'd be a nice start.