The prevailing question prior to training camp was if Dwight Howard would be ready on opening night after he had season-ending back surgery in late April.
“I don’t know when exactly I was going to be able to play,” said Howard. “Different doctors were saying different things. But the training staff here has done an excellent job making sure I get back to playing basketball as soon as I have.”
But with Howard set to start against Dallas, the injury question turns to Lakers co-captain Kobe Bryant, who has not participated in any basketball activity for a week now, and did not practice Monday. He is being called a “game-time decision,” according to coach Mike Brown.
Several of his teammates, though, have seen him play through various injuries in the past, and would not be surprised should he be available to play for the season opener.
“(Kobe’s) never been afraid to play hurt,” said Metta World Peace. “His mind is different from other people.”
Pau Gasol echoed similar sentiments.
“He’s a player that plays through anything and everything.”
Should Kobe be ruled out, Jodie Meeks would likely start in his place. The fifth-year guard out of Kentucky has impressed his teammates thus far and believe he will do a capable job in the starting lineup.
“Jodie (Meeks) is a great shooter,” said Howard. “He’s looking great in practice so hopefully he’ll do good tomorrow and the rest of the season. I like him a lot. I think he has the potential to be a very special player for our team.”
Jordan Hill (herniated disc) was also held out of practice for “precautionary reasons,” but is expected to play in the season opener. The coaching staff noted the backup power forward did not suffer any setbacks as he continues to work his way back from a back injury suffered early in the preseason.
“Not a setback,” said Brown. “But anytime you have a back injury, your back can tighten up. Just as a precautionary measure – at times – we may sit him out of contact stuff. It’s not anything where he re-injured this or re-injured that.”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding Kobe’s injury, the coaching staff believes this is an opportunity for the rest of the team to take advantage in his absence.
“Obviously, you want Kobe on the floor,” said Brown. “You want everybody on the floor the whole time. But at the end of the day, this is why it’s a team. Other guys have to step up and be ready to play if he can’t go.”