Dwight Howard could return sooner

Updated: October 1, 2012, 6:30 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Dwight Howard donned a Los Angeles Lakers jersey for the first time at media day Monday and could be seeing game action in the purple and gold uniform a lot sooner than expected.

Howard, who underwent back surgery in April, told reporters he's experienced marked improvement since his last public appearance as a Laker at his introductory press conference in August.

"I'm getting better every day," Howard said. "I'm getting stronger every day and I'm just looking forward to that day when I'm 100 percent. Until then, I'm going to keep training. I think from the last time you guys saw me to now, I think I look a lot different. I've been working extremely hard to get back on the court and I think we're going to have an awesome year."

Howard has already been ruled out of the Lakers' preseason opener on Oct. 7, according to the team.

But Yahoo! Sports reported Howard is hoping to play in the Lakers' regular season opener on Oct. 30 and that the center's back has regained "85 percent" of its strength.

"I don't have a percentage meter for my back," Howard said. "They didn't make them yet. I think that's the new technology in the iPhone 6. ... We got to wait until that comes out."

All joking aside, Howard refused to confirm any timetable he has in mind for when he could make his Lakers' debut.

"I just want to be 100 percent for the season," Howard said. "I don't want to have any setbacks. I don't want to play a couple games and then have to sit down. I want to be able to play the whole season. I owe that to myself, I owe that to the fans here and my team. We all have one mission, one goal and I want to be 100 percent for that, so I can give my teammates everything I got."

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year has done some individual on-court drills with Lakers assistant coaches Darvin Ham and Chuck Person in recent weeks, but has yet to go through full contact or any type of 5-on-5 situation as he continues his comeback.

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