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September 25, 2017

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Howard debuts for Lakers loss to Sacramento

LOS ANGELES -- After eight years in Orlando and six months of recovery from back surgery, Dwight Howard returned to an NBA court Sunday night on a new coast and wearing a new gold uniform.

The significance of the moment finally hit the normally playful big man during pregame introductions in front of fans who gave him a standing ovation before his first basket for the Los Angeles Lakers.

"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."

Howard had 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in his Lakers debut, but Los Angeles still dropped to 0-6 in the preseason when DeMarcus Cousins rallied the Sacramento Kings to a 99-92 victory on Sunday night.

The loss was secondary to the Lakers, who finally unveiled their new franchise center after Howard sat out the first five preseason games while exercising caution with his recovery. The six-time All-Star played 33 minutes and made five of Los Angeles' 22 turnovers against the Kings, fighting his game rust with energy from the opening tip.

The experience might have been overwhelming at first, but Howard quickly settled in for the Los Angeles starting five's first playing time together. It wasn't perfect, but it showed formidable promise for the long season ahead.

"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."

Kobe Bryant scored 21 points as the Lakers' starters played down the stretch of a tight game against the Kings, who finished the game with 10 unanswered points. After Cousins, who scored 16 points, put the Kings ahead with consecutive layups in the final moments, Bryant and Steve Nash missed late shots as Sacramento (4-1) hung on with a lineup mostly consisting of reserves against the Lakers' starters.

"Our rhythm is already there," Bryant said. "It's just about the little nuances, a few of our plays. ... We've done it in practice, and I think it was exciting to show the fans what kind of potential we have. I think we're a little ahead of the curve."

Los Angeles' starting five played together for four significant stretches and fairly brimmed with potential. With Howard and Bryant already playing well off each other, the Lakers finished the second quarter with a slick 18-4 run capped by Bryant's buzzer-beating 22-footer on a pass from Pau Gasol.

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