It's no secret that Superman is a tremendous potential asset for Los Angeles in its quest for its first title since 2009. However, the belief that Howard will step in from game one and immediately be the star of LA's lineup couldn't be more fictitious.
The ninth-year center is still restricted after undergoing back surgery at the end of last season. The Lakers have already acknowledged that he won't return in time for the team's preseason debut (via the LA Times). It's not unwise to suspect Howard will be missing more time than that, too.
As of August, at the time of his introductory press conference, Howard admitted he had yet to begin running. He was given a four-month recovery time by his doctors at the time of surgery, and four months later he was still a no-go, according to the Orange County Register.
A player who was in a similar situation last season was Knicks point guard Baron Davis. Davis chose to rehab the injury, while Howard opted for surgery. Davis suffered the injury in December of 2011 and made his New York debut on February 20, 2012. After he returned, his numbers were far from stellar: 6.1 PPG 4.7 APG. Granted, Davis is almost seven years older than Howard.
Even if he does make a full recovery by the season's beginning, it will be his first full-time duty against Western Conference competition. In the Lakers' division alone, Howard will have to battle Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, DeMarcus Cousins and former first-overall pick Andrew Bogut, among others.
His defense is tough to question, but his offensive game's progression has stalled, and even regressed from 2010 to 2011. Howard's field-goal percentage and points per game both dropped off last season.
Howard has shown to be a bit of a slow starter in his career, too. In the first two months of last season, he averaged only 17.7 points per game, well under his career average.
Howard was acquired by LA to help win championships, and that's exactly what he may do in time. But for those expecting a recovering, rusty Howard to dominate from the season-opening tip-off, a re-evaluation of the situation is recommended.
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