2:17AM EDT October 22. 2012 – Godzilla took Tokyo. King Kong conquered New York.
Los Angeles, Dwight Howard has arrived.
The Los Angeles Lakers lost a preseason game 99-92 Sunday to the Sacramento Kings. No matter. The big deal was the big man: Howard made his Lakers debut and dominated, finishing with 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting, plus 12 rebounds and four blocks in 33 minutes.
Just being there was enough to get Howard emotional.
“I actually shed a couple of tears,” Howard said. “During the starting lineups, one of my teammates caught me, so I tried to hide it, but I was just excited. It is really emotional, because I hadn’t been on the court in a while. I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s a very humbling experience.”
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The five turnovers and 3-for-8 shooting from the line, that’s expected. Howard hasn’t played in six months. Give the big man a break. Besides, the Lakers didn’t expect him to shoot free throws well.
Howard’s first score let everyone know his surgically repaired back, which knocked him out of the end of last season and kept him off the floor for the early part of the preseason, was fine. He took an alley-oop pass from forward Pau Gasol and slammed it through emphatically.
But he wasn’t perfect. He let a few balls slip from his grip and couldn’t complete at least one alley-oop. Those bumps are to be expected.
He was good, though. Good enough to give physical Kings center DeMarcus Cousins a hard time. Cousins, the Kings’ best player, was held to 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting and six rebounds. He also had five turnovers to go along with five fouls.
The surprise might have been that Howard played 33 minutes, but at this point in the preseason, teams are trying to get their starters serious minutes. Gasol played 36 minutes and the other three Lakers starters also played 33. Kobe Bryant scored a team-high 21 points.
The Lakers fell to 0-6 in the preseason.
“We lost the game, but there’s a lot of bright spots out there, and we’re going to continue to get better,” Howard said. “We’re going to get our timing down and start reading each other a little better, but right now we’re early in the process.”
Not everything was perfect. The Lakers pulled a little prank on Howard when it came time to take the floor. When it came time to run out to the court from the tunnel, point guard Steve Nash set Howard up by getting everyone else to wait as he trotted out alone.
“I just grabbed Pau and held him,” said Nash, a two-time MVP and fellow Lakers newcomer. He finished with six points, five assists and five rebounds.
Howard was dunked on emphatically by Kings rookie Thomas Robinson, but he had most of the highlights.
“You could tell his timing was off a little bit at times,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “A couple of times where he would have blocked a shot, he was maybe half a step late. Overall, he looked good.”
The Lakers, with Howard healthy, look potentially great.