Barring any complications with Howard’s back over the next couple days, the Lakers are optimistic the All-Star center will make their first appearance for them on Sunday.
“He is making progress,” one Lakers source told Yahoo! Sports. “There is a good chance he can play Sunday.”
Howard has been sidelined since having surgery in April to repair a herniated disk. He’s not expected to play against the Kings on Friday in Las Vegas. The Lakers would like Howard to play in two of their three remaining preseason games after Friday, sources said. But they’re hesitant to play him in both games of a back-to-back Wednesday and Thursday.
Howard hasn’t had any setbacks in practices since training camp began. If he has another strong workout on Saturday, team doctors are expected to clear him to play Sunday.
Howard would like to get some game experience with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash before the Lakers’ Oct. 30 season opener against the Dallas Mavericks.
“I’ll be a little nervous out there for the first time, but [Nash] said he would help me through it and hopefully it will be OK,” Howard told reporters after Thursday’s practice.