Dwight Howard in line for debut

Updated: October 20, 2012, 12:03 AM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown said Friday that Dwight Howard will make his debut with the team in Sunday's exhibition game against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center -- if the Lakers' medical staff clears him after a practice on Saturday and a shootaround on Sunday morning.

"With Dwight's status, it's a day-by-day approach," Brown told 710 ESPN LA's John Ireland before the Lakers' exhibition game against the Kings in Las Vegas on Friday night. "(Saturday) we'll have a practice; they (the Lakers' medical staff) will re-evaluate him. Sunday, we'll have a shootaround, they'll re-evaluate him, and if he's ready to go, he'll go that night."

Howard said Friday it's all up to the team's medical staff.

"I want to hopefully play in a couple of preseason games, or at least one," he said. "I think it's very important for myself, for the team. But if the trainers don't feel like I need to play right now, then I won't play. There's no rush."

A source told ESPNLosAngeles.com late Thursday night that Howard had told teammates and friends he was hoping to play Sunday.

Yahoo! Sports reported late Thursday night the Lakers have targeted Sunday for Howard's debut and are hoping he'll play in two of their final three exhibition games.

"Hopefully, I'll be playing sooner than later," Howard said Friday. "But there's no statements that I've ever said I'm going to play Sunday. I don't want people to think that that was the date that I had set for me to come back.

"People want to see the new-look Lakers. I totally understand it. But the only thing I can control right now is what I do."

On Thursday, Howard admitted he might feel some apprehension when he finally debuts for the Lakers.

"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. "He said he'd help me through it.

"But this is a new town, 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 and just have fun."

Howard has been participating fully in practices the past few weeks. He has said it's just a matter of increasing his conditioning to a level at which he won't risk a separate injury.

Howard, who underwent back surgery to repair a herniated disk in April, said recently that he wasn't able to run until just before the start of training camp.

Asked whether he felt it mattered if he played a preseason game before taking part in regular-season action, 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."

After Friday, the Lakers have three more exhibition games before their Oct. 30 season opener against the Dallas Mavericks: Sunday against the Kings at Staples Center; Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center; and 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 to 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."

Information from ESPN.com's J.A. Adande was used in this report.

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