Five months after back surgery, All-Star center Dwight Howard has targeted his Los Angeles Lakers debut for opening night of the 2012-13 season, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Howard is determined to play against the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 30 at Staples Center, and his progress in recent weeks has strengthened the possibility, sources said.
Howard has privately indicated his back has returned to 85 percent strength, sources said. He had surgery for a herniated disc in April and still needs doctor's clearance to engage in full training-camp activities with the Lakers. Los Angeles opens its training camp Tuesday.
The Lakers have been reluctant to make public a timetable on Howard's return, and have maintained a cautious approach to protect his long-term health.
Howard has been working with Lakers coaches and trainers at the team's practice facility, and has shown an increased range of motion, but has yet to engage in five-on-five or significant contact situations.
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The Lakers' coaching staff is implementing a hybrid of the Princeton offense and has shown Howard how the system will open up fresh avenues of scoring possibilities for him.
Howard, 26, underwent surgery in April, and missed the final weeks of the season and the playoffs for the Orlando Magic. After Howard insisted he wouldn't re-sign a long-term contract, Orlando traded him to Los Angeles as part of a four-team deal in August.
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