Dwight Howard’s sore right shoulder keeps him day-to-day against Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS — Dwight Howard has been listed as day-to-day when the Lakers play Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves because of what the team termed a “sore” right shoulder.

After aggravating it for the third time in the past month in the Lakers’ 92-86 loss Wednesday to the Phoenix Suns, Howard visited with Lakers trainer Gary Vitti Thursday in Minneapolis to assess the shoulder’s pain level.

Howard appeared in a somber mood after the game and struggled putting on an undershirt, but the injury wasn’t serious enough to warrant seeing a doctor.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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Steve Nash’s return to Phoenix a bittersweet moment

PHOENIX — The crowd stood up and cheered, but the volume fell short compared to when Steve Nash dazzled them with his amazing passes.

Suns fans greeted Nash with a warm reception when he was introduced as a visiting player for the first time since Phoenix traded him to the Lakers. But the reaction also consisted of a smattering of boos.

And as much as Nash appeared humbled for returning to the same place where he won two league MVP awards, the Lakers’ 92-86 loss Sunday to the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center made the feeling bittersweet.

“Tonight was a big setback,” Nash said after posting only 11 points and two assists in 33 minutes.

Even so, Nash kept enough big picture perspective to soak in the moment. He signed various Suns memorabilia while still fighting frustrations about the loss. Nash visited plenty of team personnel, ranging from various teammates, security guards and team officials. Nash and his Lakers teammates turned their heads during a first-quarter timeout to watch a rousing video tribute.

As Diddy’s “Coming Home” blared over the loud speakers, the video featured Nash throwing alley-oop lobs, making clutch shots and hoisting his MVP trophies.

“Very flattering and very sweet of the organization,” Nash said. “It was very kind of them.”
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Dwight Howard to have aggravated right shoulder reevaluated Thursday

PHOENIX — Slowly but surely, Dwight Howard clutched his gray undershirt. He arched it over his head. With hesitation, Howard then pulled the shirt down to cover his body.

That simple act looked painful to watch. It proved difficult for Howard to complete. And it provided all the visual images surrounding the pain level Howard described as “really sore” after aggravating his right shoulder for the second time in the last three weeks.

The Lakers unraveled in their 92-86 loss Wednesday to the Phoenix Suns after Howard injured his shoulder and missed the final 6:56 of the game. The Lakers will reevaluate him on the team’s day off Thursday in Minnesota before assessing his availability when the Lakers visit the Timberwolves Friday at Target Center.

“I’m going to try as much as I can,” said Howard after posting nine points on 4 of 9 shooting and 14 rebounds. “But I don’t want to cause more damage to my shoulder. We’ll just have to see how it feels tomorrow. It’s in a lot of pain right now.”

Howard said he felt “numbness” all over his right arm and neck after taking a fall following a loose ball. He said it proved just as painful when he initially injured the shoulder in the Lakers’ loss Jan. 4 to the Clippers where Caron Butler fouled him hard as he drove into the lane. Howard then aggravated the shoulder two days later in the Lakers’ loss to the Denver Nuggets. He sat out the next three games.

Howard aggravated his shoulder again in the Lakers’ loss last week to Memphis, prompting him to miss the second half. But an examination the following day revealed no further damage.

Howard refused to think about the possibility he would need surgery. But he sounded uncertain whether he would have to sit out another week to heal the shoulder.

“I don’t want to,” Howard said. “But we’ll see.”
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NBA approves Lakers’ disabled players exception for Jordan Hill

The NBA granted the Lakers Wednesday a disabled players exception for Jordan Hill worth $1.78 million, according to a team official.

The Lakers can use this exception to sign a free agent for up to one season or acquire a player making up to $1.88 million through a trade. The Lakers don’t plan to use it considering they’re already devoting $100 million in player payroll and $30 million in luxury taxes. The Lakers would have until March 12 to use the exception.

Nonetheless, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has said the team applied for the exception because it gives them added “flexibility.” Even though Hill is expected to stay sidelined for at least six months after having surgery to treat his injured left hip, Kupchak said he had no intentions of filling his roster spot because of Earl Clark’s emergence.
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Lakers attach strong significance to seven-game trip

Who are these Lakers?

Are they a scrappy bunch willing to sacrifice roles for the sake of winning as they’ve shown in the past week? Or are they an underachieving team that will fail to consistently maximize the talent they have?

The Lakers concede they don’t know. Hence, why they’re attaching great significance to the team’s seven-game, 12-day trip that starts tonight against the Phoenix Suns (15-30)at US Airways Center.

“It’s huge. Absolutely huge,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “It can be a really really great trip for us, a great trip for us or an absolutely [expletive] trip.”
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Kobe Bryant says he’ll happily continue passing role

Back when he was a young child growing up in Italy, Kobe Bryant always imagined he’d exude greatness as a basketball player.

But his initial visions didn’t exactly pan out as imagined.

Idolizing Lakers great Magic Johnson, Bryant says he envisioned becoming another 6’9″ point guard that would dazzle everyone with his amazing passes.

“After that I realized I wouldn’t be 6’9,” Bryant said, “it was the end of that dream.”

And apparently, so was Bryant’s quest to become an elite passer. Instead he channeled his competitiveness into becoming the NBA’s fifth all-time leading scorer and possibly even more. Yet, the Lakers’ three-game winning streak has coincided with Bryant facilitating the offense, while Steve Nash mostly scores off the ball.

The Lakers’ 111-106 victory Tuesday over the New Orleans Hornets featured Bryant posting 14 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, his third consecutive near triple double. Bryant has averaged 13 assists in the past three games, an effort that exceeds the league leaders including Celtics injured guard Rajon Rondo (11.1) and Clippers guard Chris Paul (9.7).

“What do you think I’m going to stand here and say I wasn’t going to be the best?” Bryant said with a smile. “Most of you guys thought I couldnt do it. “That’s pretty funny.”
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NBA TV analysts assess the Lakers’ development

Below is a sampling of what NBA TV analysts Kenny Smith and Chris Webber see regarding the Lakers’ latest play.

Smith on Kobe Bryant’s role with the Lakers: “When you put a ‘Dream Team’ together, [Bryant] shouldn’t have to be the scorer, the defender, the passer, the coach and the psychologist. He should just play his role.”

Webber on the Lakers: “This is a ‘Dream Team,’ this is one of the best teams we’ve seen on paper…once again, everyone is riding Kobe’s back and he needs some help.”

Webber on how Pau Gasol should be a bigger part of the Lakers’ identity: “When you get the ball to [Gasol] in the post, he can get it right back out to Kobe or Nash. That makes it harder [for the defense] to check players. They might be establishing that their identity is Kobe as their leader, but Pau Gasol is second and then everyone else.”

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Pau Gasol upset over sitting 4th quarter in Lakers win over Hornets

As the Lakers mounted a furious rally to hold off a 111-106 victory Tuesday over the New Orleans Hornets that they should’ve secured much earlier, there was one lone player showing a sense of isolation and disappointment.

Pau Gasol vowed time and time again he wouldn’t let a demoted bench role bother him so much that he’d gripe about it instead of helping the Lakers climb out of this rut in the Western Conference. Instead, Gasol pledged he’d make the best of a bench role that featured his post presence instead of a facilitator along the perimeter.

But this seemed different.

Gasol missed the entire fourth quarter after posing seven points on 1 of 4 shooting, seven assists and seven rebounds, an element he touted as more significant than if he actually starts in the game.

“I’m a competitor and think I bring a lot to the table,” Gasol said. “It’s something I don’t like and don’t appreciate.”

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni had a fairly vague explanation.

“I couldn’t get Pau back in there,” he said, “because of what the line up was.”

But the game revealed everything.

Lakers forward Earl Clark posted 20 points, shot a career-high 4 of 5 from three-point range and converted on a layup that gave the tream a 107-104 lead with 32.8 seconds remaining. But that doesn’t account for Antawn Jamison playing in 24 minutes, his 16 points offset by a flurry of blown defensive assignments. That doesn’t account for Metta World Peace sitting the entire fourth quarter after going 1 of 8 from the field.

“I thought he had a tough night,” D’Antonu said of World Peace, “and Antawn was playing well and they had guys Antawn could guard.”

That really wasn’t the case.

Regardless, World Peace sat on the bench engaged into the game while cheering on his teammates. World Peace also didn’t talk to reporters, perhaps because he didn’t want to bring attention to the story. Gasol sat with an emotionless expression and showing little reaction to everything happening on the court. He then made it clear that he’s struggling in maintaining the big picture perspective.

“It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge every day,” Gasol said. “I’m challenged every day to keep my calm and keep my peace and not let my emotions take over my words.”

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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Lakers believe Steve Nash will receive warm reception in Phoenix

It’s taken seven months for Steve Nash to prepare for this moment. But once it finally comes, the swirl of emotions will still hit him.

The Lakers (19-25) may insist they’re strictly focused on tonight’s game against the New Orleans Hornets (15-29), despite remaining the Western Conference’s worst team. But Nash has reason to look ahead to the Lakers’ game at Phoenix (15-30) Wednesday for reasons beyond seeing how the team measures on an 11-day, seven-game trip.

That game will also mark the first team he faced his the Suns after their mutual breakup led to Nash joining the Lakers this offseason.

“It’s one of those days that’s not easy,” Nash said. “But it’s very welcoming to go back and see all those familiar faces. It’s a very special place for me.”
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Metta World seeks advice on making friends

It seems relatively easy for Metta World Peace to make friends.

He endears teammates with his goofy antics. Reporters crowd around the Lakers forward eager to hear what he’ll say next. But there’s also the insecure side of World Peace, who supports mental health issues by talking about his own struggles.

Hence, why it’s perfectly brilliant that World Peace consulted kid therapists in a video spoof on how he can make friends with his new teammates. Considering the Lakers had an air-it-out meeting last week that involved Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard constructively butting heads, all the advice World Peace received sure seems timely.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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