- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Being nervous before a basketball game isn't a new thing for Dwight Howard. He gets butterflies every time he takes the court. But when he finally debuts for the Los Angeles Lakers, which is looking sooner rather than later, Howard expects to be more than a little nervous.
"I told Steve [Nash], 'I think I'm going to be a little nervous out there the first time,' " Howard said after the Lakers practiced Thursday. "He said he'd help me through it.
"But this is a new team, new city and I think everybody is expecting a lot out of me so I have to make sure I keep all that out of my mind when I play in front of the home crowd."
Howard has been ruled out of the Lakers' exhibition game Friday against the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas, but his Lakers debut seems right around the corner as he improves his conditioning and works his way back from back surgery in April.
Asked whether he felt it mattered whether he played a preseason game before playing in a regular-season game, Howard said, "I think it does. You can't expect for a preseason game to be like Michael Jordan's comeback where he goes for 45 points and 40 rebounds. Right now I just want to get my feet wet."
The Lakers have four more exhibition games before their Oct. 30 season opener against the Dallas Mavericks. Friday in Las Vegas, Sunday against the Kings at Staples Center, next Wednesday against the Clippers at Staples Center and next Thursday against the Kings in San Diego.
"I know I'm going to be a little rusty, I haven't played in so long," Howard said. "It's going be a little different, but I'm looking forward to it. Once I get my first dunk or my first block, everything will be OK."
Howard continued to participate almost fully in Lakers practice Thursday. The only reason he hasn't played in an exhibition game is that he's still building up his conditioning. He was only able to resume running right before training camp.
While the Lakers haven't been close to full strength in any exhibition game so far, they often have all five of their projected starters on the court together during practices. And Howard, for one, likes what he sees.
"I've never played with a guy like Steve Nash," Howard said. "I played with 'Pistol' Pete [Maravich] on NBA Live back in the day. That's the closest I've come.
"He just makes it easy. I won't have to battle so much to get points. If I just run the floor, I'll get easy baskets. I think that's going to help us a lot. Those easy baskets are going to help a lot."
And Pau Gasol?
"There's nobody like Pau," Howard said. "But I think Pau was on Sesame Street. Any of you ever seen him on Sesame Street? The Yellow Bird."
Realizing that Gasol, who was holding court with reporters nearby might be able to hear him, Howard playfully shouted out, "One of you guys said that, not me. Somebody else said that."
17hJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info
18hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
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