The Lakers acquired the best center in the NBA this offseason, but they don't know when he'll be able to take the court.
Dwight Howard underwent back surgery on his lower disc in April and is still recovering from the injury. Los Angeles traded for Howard, knowing that he wasn't ready to play. Now, it appears nobody knows when he will be good to go.
According to Howard, there is no timetable for his return. He wants to make sure that he is completely healthy before he's back at full speed.
"When I'm 100 percent, I will step on the floor and play," Howard told ESPN. "I don't want to play at 85 percent or 80 percent. I want to be at 100 percent. I want to give all that to this city, to this team, to myself, to basketball and to all of the fans. I want to give them 100 percent every single night. I don't want to have any relapses. When I'm 100 percent, you will see me giving 100 percent on the court."
While it's unknown exactly when Howard will be 100 percent, it likely won't be anytime soon. He'll miss the start of Lakers training camp on Oct. 2, and won't be ready for L.A.'s preseason debut. Los Angeles is set to play their first exhibition game against the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 7.
Howard doesn't have any experience in dealing with such a major injury. Before the start of last season, he missed just seven total games from 2004-2011.
In August, Howard had discussed how he is not allowed to run, and has to sit. After surgery, Howard was directed to wait out the injury as anything high-impact, such running and jumping, would have harmful effects on his back in the first few months following a discectomy, which would help avoid having a re-herniation.
According to Lionel Hunt, chief of spine surgery at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Howard's size should not be a factor but rather the stress he puts on his spine on a daily basis.
Hunt explained on ESPN Radio that athletes often return from back injuries like the one Howard suffereed a lot quicker than average people, "but they never come back 100 percent."
Hunt said that Lakers "should not be too concerned" with Howard's injury, because he's a great physical specimen. Hunt also said that Howard should be ready on opening day.
He cited how quarterback Joe Montana had a microdiscectomy and ended up having a strong career with the Kansas City Chiefs following his time with the San Francisco 49ers.
Baron Davis is one of the more recent NBA stars to return from back surgery. He missed over two months because of the injury, but was never fully healthy in 2012. He averaged just 6.1 points per game, the first time he averaged less than double-digits since 2000.
Howard doesn't seem like he's in a rush to wear the purple and gold. The center is in the final year of his contract, and on the verge of a big payday. He's set to make over $100 million at the end of the season, and doesn't want to risk re-injuring himself.
Without the All-Star, the Lakers could have a tougher time than some anticipated.
Los Angeles has become the favorite to win the Western Conference after trading for Howard and Steve Nash. If L.A. doesn't have Howard for an extended period of time, they could struggle. The Lakers would be much weaker in the frontcourt without Howard or Andrew Bynum, who was sent away in the four-team deal.
Even though Howard can't give an exact return date, he is confident that he'll come back as good as ever.
"Rehab is going great" Howard and said, "I'm getting stronger and better every day."
The Lakers open the regular season on Oct. 30 against the Dallas Mavericks.
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