The last few months have been a whirlwind for the All-Star center. He ended last season in street clothes after sustaining a back injury, was the subject of trade rumors that lasted months and then was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Lakers in a blockbuster deal.
After missing the first five preseason games, Howard was in the starting lineup against the Sacramento Kings, and he did not disappoint.
In 33 minutes, Howard finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. He converted eight of his 12 shots and even added two assists as the starting lineup played well as a group.
This was not an example of the star playing a few minutes in the preseason to please fans. The big man showed everyone around the league that this should be expected on a nightly basis.
While the team eventually lost the game (which says that the depth could be a problem this season), Howard was the main storyline to take from the night. However, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year was more hopeful for the future than satisfied after the game (via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times).
I think there were a lot of bright spots even though we lost the game. We're going continue to get better. I'll say midseason, we'll have everything flowing just the right way.
This is a scary proposition for opposing teams around the league.
ESPN's Andy Kamenetzky discussed Howard's defensive game on Sunday and how it impacts the team.
He looked every bit the part advertised on the defensive end. A dozen rebounds were snagged, four shots were blocked, and several others altered as the result of his size, athleticism and general intimidation. Simply put, Howard turns the lane upside down for opponents.
Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol are all good on-ball defenders, but things are now much easier with Howard guarding the lane. Opponents will have very few options offensively and will be forced to take terrible shots throughout the game.
Meanwhile, Howard certainly was useful on the offensive end as well, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Howard's mere presence suddenly inspired the Lakers to play team basketball (22 assists on 33 field goals). He opened up plenty of open looks for his entire supporting cast.
Dwight Howard is obviously a big upgrade over Robert Sacre, the reserve who had been starting at center in the previous preseason games. The new threat forces teams to focus on yet another weapon, giving his teammates more space in the open court.
Altogether, this could be one of the most accomplished starting lineups of all time. Every player is capable of doing big things on any given night, and defenses are going to have a hard time deciding who to guard.
While Howard has only played in one game, fans are already excited. The blog Lakers Nation described the new player's performance very simply in a tweet.
Despite a winless preseason, the Lakers appear to be in very good shape heading into the season. This talent is going to be fun to watch all year long, regardless of your favorite team.
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