Is Dwight Howard's Back a Bigger Concern Than L.A. Lakers Are Letting On?

Ethan Sherwood Strauss@SherwoodStraussNBA Lead WriterAugust 28, 2012

If I had to bet, I'd wager on the Lakers being quite concerned with Dwight Howard's back. They're far from a stupid franchise, and Gary Vitti is among the most respected trainers in sports. Los Angeles takes risks, but it does not do so lightly.

Fans and media? They're a bit less concerned, or at least were when news of the trade was announced. The ensuing celebration made it seem as though L.A. had traded Kwame Brown, not Andrew Bynum. For all his PR faults, Drew was still the second-best center in the league. Bynum is a shade bigger than Howard, and also two years younger. Complain all you will about Laker luck, but they made a fair, bold deal here.

Also, in the trade lead-up, Los Angeles was wary of Dwight Howard's back, according to an Eric Pincus HoopsWorld report:

The Lakers biggest concern is the status of Howard’s back, which the source indicates they believe has been healing "very slowly."

Los Angeles eventually shed enough of its concerns to make this deal happen, but I doubt that it instantly became carefree upon its completion. I doubt this because Dwight seemed so doubtful as to physical activity in his near future. 

At the trade presser, Dwight let on that he had not started running since his season-ending back surgery. He also refused to give a future timetable on his return despite a few questions in that direction.

I found this to be a shocking revelation, considering the celebratory atmosphere surrounding the trade. If Dwight Howard had no clue when he'd ever play basketball again, then what exactly were we analyzing here? And how was this aspect of the story not covered in greater detail? 

We still have no official Dwight return date. As recently as Aug. 27, Lakers.com refused to peg Howard's recovery to any kind of time sequence. Despite controlling its own message on its own website, Los Angeles is tentative to give any kind of insight as to Dwight's progress. It isn't even willing to say that he'll be back within a year. It's wholly up to our imaginations. 

There is the extra concern that doesn't pertain to when Howard will be back from his herniated-disc injury. What about how Howard's game might change? He's 6'9" in socks (6'11" in shoes). Strong though he is, Dwight's not exactly a giant of a big man. His shot is far from accurate, and his handle is balky at best.

Suffice to say that Howard is highly dependent on athleticism. If he loses any bounce, it could be the difference between great and good. As in, it could be the difference between Howard and Bynum—or worse. 

So, as we excitedly analyze the pick-and-roll possibilities of Nash and Howard, we may be discussing a team that only exists in theory. We may also be discussing a team that will begin opening night with a healthy, fully-revved Dwight Howard.

The Lakers have given us little reason to lean in any particular direction. So many possibilities, so many timetables, are plausible. If you're a pessimist, that's quite scary. But how many Laker fans have reason for pessimism?