The moment he woke up, Dwight Howard’s sprained right shoulder felt so painful that he couldn’t dress himself.
That’s why Howard remains unsure if he will play when the Lakers host the Denver Nuggets Sunday at Staples Center.
“Hopefully it feels better so I can play,” Howard said. “But if not, I’ll have to sit down.”
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni characterized his optimism that Howard will play as “good,” but the Lakers center’s body language suggested more uncertainty.
He technically didn’t practice on Saturday’s, though it was nothing more than a film session and walk through that he joined. During voluntary shooting drills at the end of practice, Howard went off the floor. He used that time icing his shoulder and receiving electronic stimulation.
Howard first felt the pain midway through the third quarter. After receiving a pass from Steve Nash off a pick-and-roll play, Howard made contact with Clippers forward Caron Butler as he drove inside. Butler blocked Howard’s shot while angling his shoulder awkwardly.
“I caught the ball up as I was going up to dunk,” Howard recalled. “Caron was trying to foul me or whatever. As I was going up, his momentum was coming down. As I’m coming down, [my shoulder] was still up.”
After Clippers guard Chris Paul scored in transition to extend the gap to 72-60, the Lakers called a 20-second timeout with 6:48 remaining. Howard winced over his shoulder popping. But he stayed in the game.
“I thought it was a stinger,” Howard said. “It kept hurting the whole rest of the game. The whole rest of the game was hurting. My adrenaline was pumping and everything. But last night, it was killing me.”
During the game, Howard tried to alleviate the pain. In between some of the Clippers’ free throws, Howard often stretched out his shoulder in hopes of preventing it from tightening up.
“I didn’t want it to bother me as much,” Howard said. “So I wanted to [stretch] it as much as I could during the game just to loosen it up. I don’t know if that helped it or anything. But I was in a lot of pain.”
Howard still is.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org