Lakers fans wait with baited breath on the recovery status of the lower back of new center Dwight Howard, seen here greeting Kobe Bryant in Octoberduring NBA media day for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team in Los Angeles. Bryant also strained his shoulder during practice this week. (Photo : Reuters)
As the Los Angeles Lakers set to race for the 2012-13 NBA crown with a new star-studded lineup, fans of the purple-and-gold team are already worried whether two of those stars in the Lakers Galaxy will be good to go for the regular season.
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Though Bryant, 34, sat out of Wednesday's 93-75 Lakers loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers superstar assured fans that he was fine on the Lakers' in-house broadcast station Time Warner Cable SportsNet.
"I just strained it a little bit on the dunk. I should be OK, though," he said.
Bryant participated in a light, no-contact session on Thursday with the rest of the team, as reported by Gather.com's sports site.
Meanwhile, cautious eyes continue to be on Dwight Howard, who continues to work to get back to game shape after his spring lower back surgery.
The health of the Lakers' superstar duo will be key in what many fans and analysts are expecting to be a potential championship season, with the post season acquisitions of both Howard and former Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash, who joined Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace in Hollywood during a huge offseason splash for the Lakers.
Coach Mike Brown told the LA Times this week that the desire for a world championship is strong among his new team.
"The great thing about all this is these guys are good guys," Brown said. "I truly believe they all want to win a championship."
Around the League: Preseason Round Up
The bench was the thing for the New York Knicks in Thursday's 108-101 away game victory over the Washington Wizards. Reserves Steve Novak and JR Smith combined with star Carmelo Anthony for a lights-out, 11-for-11 three-point shooting performance, with Novak hitting perfect on the night with 7-for-7 overall shooting.
"We've still got a ways to go,'' Anthony, who scored 17 points in 20 minutes, told the New York Daily News after scoring 17 points in 20 minutes. "But to start off preseason like this, I'll take it.'
In Orlando, Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday was the difference maker with 27 points, three assists and a steal as the Sixers beat the Magic, 102-95.
Guard Brian Roberts' 16 points and 8 assists gave the New Orleans Hornets the boost they needed to squeak out a win against the Charlotte Bobcats, 90-87, at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.
In Oakland, Calif., the Golden State Warriors were powered by power forward Carl Landry's 24 point, 8 rebound show as they beat Israel's Maccabi Haifa ball club, 108-100.
And in Beijing, China Lebron James was the defending champion Miami Heat's top performer, posting 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists as the Heat topped Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers, 94-80 at a special exhibition game at the Mastercard Center.
Preseason scores and boxscores for Thursday's games are available on ESPN.com.