MEMPHIS — After spending plenty of time posing for pictures and making small talk with fans, Dwight Howard had to face reality.
One element involves something more tangible. Howard aggravated his right shoulder in the Lakers’ 106-93 loss Wednesday to the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEX Forum. He sat out for the entire second half after injuring it with 2:21 left in the second quarter. The Lakers plan to evaluate him Thursday on the same injury that kept him sidelined for three games two weeks ago. He finished with only two points on 0 of 4 shooting and two rebounds in 14 minutes
“It felt real bad,” said Howard as he exited the arena. “I didn’t want to try to play through it. I didn’t want to hurt it any worse. They asked me not to play.”
Well, not exactly.
Howard grabbed his shoulder and signaled for coach Mike D’Antoni to take him out of the game. Howard then went to the locker room. When the Lakers examined him at halftime, they determined his right shoulder worsened. Howard sounded unsure whether he will play Friday when the Lakers (17-25) host the Utah Jazz at Staples Center.
“The last time I hurt it after the game, it felt pretty cool,” Howard said. “Now I still feel it. It’s still aggravated. It’s something they said I’ll have to leanr how to cope with. But the biggest thing is to continue to get it stronger.”
Howard had to handle more than just an injured shoulder.
The Lakers had an air-it-out meeting during Wednesday’s shootaround, partly why it lasted 72 minutes.
D’Antoni made it clear he wants the team to focus more on the team’s defense, which ranks 26th overall, than on the offense that ranks fifth overall. Steve Nash spoke up, though declined to go into specifics. Howard apologized to reporters and vowed he’d take a larger role on defense. But he maintained Kobe Bryant didn’t confront Howard about his dissatisfaction about playing with him.
Is Howard bothered by how Bryant plays?
“No I’m not,” Howard said. “It’s something we all got to learn how to play. We have to learn how to play together.”
After repeated denials, Howard then said, “Listen, what happened in the locker room is going to stay between us.”
Bryant wasn’t as forthcoming, but acknowledged addressing Howard. Did the message get through?
“I don’t know,” Bryant said.
Was he at least encouraged Howard said he’d take on a larger defensive responsibility?
“Yep,” Bryant said.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org