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With the Lakers organization is taking all the necessary precautions regarding Dwight Howard‘s offseason back surgery, Howard’s progress has been encouraging. Earlier today in Lakers practice, Howard participated in full-court, full-contact 5-on-5 drills for the first time this offseason. Additionally, Howard was cleared today for limited five-on-five scrimmages with the team.

While Howard has not outlined his expected Lakers debut, Howard is hopeful that he may see some action during the preseason – a far cry from initial rumors that the franchise center would be sidelined through the winter.

Howard’s good news came in conjunction with reports that forward Jordan Hill will not require surgery for a herniated disc suffered this offseason, via Adrian Wojnarowski:

Hill, 25, will undergo core strength training on his back to rehabilitate the injury, sources said. He could return to practice within 10-14 days, but Hill’s rehab process will be fluid depending on how his back responds to treatment, sources said.

Hill, in all likelihood, will be available for the season opener on Oct. 30th against the Dallas Mavericks.