If not for the heightened anticipation to see Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in Lakers uniforms, most who've followed the Lakers in recent championship-possible seasons would remember that exhibition games are about as important as which pattern of Nikes that Kobe Bryant decides to wear.

(In the exhibition opener, Bryant wore one gold sneaker and one purple sneaker, by the way.)

The fact that Howard is practicing daily with his new teammates — and should still for another two-plus weeks — minimizes the oft-stated need for Howard to get into exhibition game action so that he and Nash can learn to play with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the other Lakers.

But Howard, coming back from April 20 spinal surgery, will not play Saturday at Staples Center against Utah in the Lakers' third exhibition, the club announced Thursday. The next exhibition games are Tuesday vs. Utah at Honda Center and Oct. 19 vs. Sacramento in Las Vegas.

Bryant, who skipped the Lakers' exhibition loss to Portland in Ontario on Wednesday because of a mild right-shoulder strain, is expected to play at Staples. He took part in the Lakers' light practice session Thursday.

The Lakers are 0-2, which bears reminding that Coach Mike Brown is not a proponent of trying too hard to win exhibitions.

But if one works under that assumption that the Lakers' conservativeness in bringing Howard into game action slows the development of their chemistry and their new offense, the club can take solace in the early portion of the regular-season schedule being soft.

Twelve of the Lakers' first 17 games are at Staples. Of the five road games in that stretch, the first three are against teams that are projected to struggle to make the Western Conference playoffs: Portland, Utah and Sacramento. The Lakers' toughest test early on is a Nov. 23-24 back-to-back set in Memphis and Dallas — but that's a month and a half away yet.