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Howard participates in Lakers' 1st practice

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) - Dwight Howard participated in his first practice with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, going through a lengthy workout with no apparent concerns about his surgically repaired back.

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Howard worked out with the Lakers' new starting five during much of the afternoon practice at the Lakers' training complex, running offensive drills with Steve Nash and playing a little 1-on-1 against Pau Gasol. After finishing up the workout with drills in the Lakers' new Princeton-inflected offense, he got a few quick pointers from Kobe Bryant.

Howard's performance was encouraging to the Lakers, who are being careful with their new franchise center five months after surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.

``I didn't surprise myself,'' Howard said. ``I've been working hard to get on the court. I want to continue to work hard, (and) we haven't had any setbacks, so I want to continue to do whatever I can to get on the court.''

The six-time All-Star center hasn't committed to any timetable for his debut with the Lakers, who acquired him in a four-team trade in August. The Lakers already have announced Howard won't play in their first preseason game in Fresno against Golden State on Sunday night, but Howard sounds determined to suit up with his teammates at some point before the regular season opener Oct. 30 against Dallas.

``Hopefully I'll be back for some preseason games,'' Howard said. ``I think we're going to need it for chemistry and all that stuff, but like I said, I'm not going to rush. I'm going to continue to practice. We've had some great practices. Today was really good, so I'm happy.''

The Lakers' second exhibition is in Ontario, Calif., on Oct. 10 against Portland.

Howard has been working out six days a week at the Lakers' training complex to prepare for the season under the watch of the club's medical staff and his own team.

The results are promising to his teammates, who were impressed by Howard's fitness in his first team action. Howard participated in three-on-three, two-on-two and one-on-one drills with the Lakers, who didn't run any drills with serious contact or 5-on-5 scrimmages.

``He worked just as much as anybody else, so that was good,'' Gasol said. ``I didn't expect that to happen today. ... He's a great player, a tremendous force, and it feels good to have him here.''

Howard knows the Lakers have plenty of work to do if they hope to grasp the new offensive concepts being installed by veteran assistant coach Eddie Jordan. Bryant, who already sees Howard picking up the offense, is grateful to see evidence of Howard's work ethic in his first day.

``It was very beneficial,'' Bryant said. ``Even though he can't really do anything that's contact-related, he's still able to go through all the drills offensively, and the schemes we want to do, and kind of work through the Princeton offense, so it was very productive.''

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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