But if he and the Lakers get off to a slow start in 2012-13, a la the Heat in 2010-11, nobody should be surprised, nor should there be any cause for concern.
For one thing, there's Howard's health to consider, and he certainly isn't going to be 100 percent when the season begins. Howard underwent back surgery in April, and although he appeared to be going full strength in Tuesday's practice, he has not yet been cleared to participate in a full-contact scrimmage, according to the Los Angeles Daily News' Elliott Teaford.
Still, he looked good in practice—maybe even deceptively good. Post-practice, ESPNLosAngeles.com's Brian Kamenetzky wrote:
Dwight Howard doesn't look like a guy too far off from game play. Certainly in the portion of practice we were allowed to view, Howard was running comfortably, working through 5-on-none offensive possessions as the Lakers install their new Princeton system. Even better, Howard participated fully in the portions of practice we weren't allowed to watch, and felt good after.
But even so, Howard's outlook seemed positive.
"Today was really good, so I'm happy," he told Teaford. But he also acknowledged that he and his new teammates have a long way to go before they have successfully built the monster many are expecting the new-look Lakers to be.
He used one all-important word to illustrate the importance of getting in plenty of practice time with this team before the games start counting.
On Tuesday, Howard told Teaford that he's hoping to play few preseason games before the regular season begins because "I think we're going to need it for chemistry and all that stuff."
Chemistry and all that stuff mark the difference between an underachieving team of superstars, and a team that actually plays like a team.
No matter how good Howard feels right now, and no matter how close he is to being back at 100 percent, it's still going to take a lot of time and work before we see him pay off on the court in a truly meaningful way. There's no underestimating the importance of chemistry, as we saw from the early Miami Big 3 days, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh went 10-8 throughout the first month and change of the season.
Lost in all of the hype that surrounded the acquisitions of Howard and Steve Nash was the idea that piling a bunch of superstars onto one roster doesn't necessarily make a contender. Sticking Dwight Howard in the middle of the Lakers' frontcourt doesn't automatically make them the best team in the Western Conference.
They'll get there, most likely. But it probably won't happen right off the bat—and it could even take longer than expected, given the fact that Howard needs extra time to fully rehabilitate his back.
The start will be rocky as superstars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol get used to playing with the two newbies, but there is plenty of time for the Lakers to regulate. Look at what happened with the Heat last year. After that mediocre first month, they lost just one game in December. By New Year's, they were 26-9.
But it was a long road to getting there, and it didn't happen in a snap.
Building the top contender in the NBA doesn't happen overnight, or even with one huge trade over the summer. It takes time. And the Lakers have time.