When it came to Lakers' new—or maybe in this case, used—toy, it was initially believed that Howard would miss a few games at the start of the season while recovering from back surgery.
Then, it was revealed that he had hopes of being back for the season opener (via Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski):
Five months after back surgery, All-Star center Dwight Howard has targeted his Los Angeles Lakers debut for opening night of the 2012-13 season, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Howard is determined to play against the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 30 at Staples Center, and his progress in recent weeks has strengthened the possibility, sources said.
Now, Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears is saying that Howard hopes to play in the preseason:
Dwight Howard says he hopes to play in some preseason games after taking part in entire light @lakers practice but remains cautious.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) October 2, 2012
Seriously, the Lakers know it's a long season, right? And that the preseason doesn't count for anything? Kareem must be in town, because they are unnecessarily rushing things.
I understand the need to build chemistry quickly between a team that features two new All-Stars and a completely overhauled bench, but sometimes other things must take precedent.
First of all, the health of said new All-Star.
Up until the end of last season, Howard had been the definition of picture-perfect health throughout his career, appearing in 78 games or more in every season before playing in "only" 54 of 66 last year.
If any 6'11", 240-pound big man can recover from serious back injury in lightning-quick time, it's the über-athletic Howard. But then again, let us not forget that this is a 6'11", 240-pound big man. Regardless of his résumé, he is still more susceptible to a setback than guys who are smaller than he is.
Second, the Lakers must keep the ultimate goal in mind: an NBA championship.
When should Dwight Howard play his first game?
If Howard misses a week or 10 days to start the season to ensure that he is truly healthy for the upcoming grind of a season, is that really the worst thing in the world? Don't the Lakers have enough talent to survive for five games without their All-Star center?
In this case, it seems that it would be better for the Lakers to play it extremely safe, even if Howard is recovering quickly and claiming he's back to 100 percent (imagine that, someone who loves basketball wants to come back early).
When it comes down to it, what situation would the Lakers rather be in? Howard misses a few games at the start of the season and is healthy for the rest of the year, or Howard plays in the preseason or comes back too early and suffers a major setback during a more important stretch?
Better safe than sorry. This seems like an easy call to me. Hit the pine, Dwight.