Dwight Howard: “I shouldn’t have to prove anything”

As he worked on a series of post-up moves, drives to the basket and free throws, Dwight Howard didn’t just test how the aggravated right shoulder feels. It provided a sneak preview on whether Howard will follow through on his words on rededicating himself when the Lakers (17-25) host the Utah Jazz (23-19) at Staples Center.

He made a proclamation two days ago, but he aggravated his right shoulder during the Lakers’ 106-93 loss Wednesday to the Memphis Grizzlies. Howard only finished with two points, missed all four field goal attempts and collected two rebounds. But Howard just coughed up the game as a “bad break” because of his injury.

“I shouldn’t have to prove anything,” said Howard, who has averaged 16.7 points and 12 rebounds, his lowest marks since the 2006-07 season. “Just go out there and play. People have high expectations. I have high expectations for myself. But I have to fight through it. This is a true test for us and certain guys individually.”
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Dwight Howard vows he’ll fight through back and shoulder injuries

Even with everyone waiting for him on the sideline, Dwight Howard ignored the attention and focused on himself.

That entailed endlessly working with Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person following morning shootaround Friday on a series of post-up and driving moves that tested his quickness and mobility. It served as the perfect image on Howard’s declaration that he won’t let the aggravated right shoulder inhibit his aggressiveness when the Lakers (17-25) host the Utah Jazz (23-19) tonight at Staples Center.

“I just have to play,” Howard said. “It’s the same thing with my back. My back is not 100 percent. My body is not 100 percent. I have to go out there and leave it all out on the floor no matter what the situation is and just play through it.”
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Dwight’s injury update…

Dwight Howard’s right shoulder was examined this afternoon, and he has been cleared to play. Howard
aggravated his right shoulder in last night’s game against Memphis. He was examined in L.A.
by shoulder specialist Dr. James Tibone and there was no further damage, according to the Lakers.
He’s cleared to play Friday against the Jazz at Staples Center.

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Lakers offer few answers on how to fix current problems

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the season appears to be painfully slipping out of their fingers, the Lakers suddenly are left without answers on how to fix this mess.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni suddenly suggested the team simply doesn’t have enough horsepower to keep up with dominant teams no matter how hard they try. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant gave terse answers expressing optimism the team can turn it around without offering specifics. Lakers center Dwight Howard seemed too occupied posing for endless photos with fans, complaining about the pain in his aggravated right shoulder and disputing Bryant calling him out in the team’s air-it-out meeting to see much of the big picture.

The Lakers (17-25) have been in this situation for a while, a 12th place standing in the Western Conference while playing Russian roulette with the mathematical improbability that they could sneak into the postseason three months from now.

The Lakers’ 106-93 loss Wednesday to the Memphis Grizzlies marked their third consecutive loss and their seventh straight road loss. But it seemed much more than that. The Lakers had an air-it-out meeting before morning shootaround where they were encouraged to openly air their grievances. But in what marked as a Hail Mary in a possible turning point in the season, the Lakers dropped the long pass.

The fact that details leaked that Bryant confronted Howard about his frustration in deferring to the Lakers’ star goes beyond the inevitable that stories like this become publicized in Los Angeles.

“When we have meetings, we should deal with stuff as a group and our family sould be tight,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “If it’s not tight, then it cracks. The situation keeps getting worse until at some point it’ll explode.”

If it hasn’t exploded already, well the time bomb is ticking pretty closely.

On a day Howard vowed he’ll take more accountability on defense, he aggravated his right shoulder and asked out of the game. The Lakers will assess his degree of pain Thursday, but it wasn’t painful enough for Lakers trainer Gary Vitti to rush into the locker room to check on Howard.

On a day the Lakers vowed they won’t leave any stone unturned, they lost on every hustle point imaginable. That included Memphis destroying the Lakers in the paint (60-34), rebounds (52-24) and second-chance points (27-3).

On a day the Lakers believed their air-it-out meeting would lead to less finger pointing, the same thing happened.

D’Antoni compared to his team to an All-Star team in derogatory terms beforehand.

Have you ever watched an All-Star game? It’s god-awful,” he said. “Everybody gets the ball and goes one on one and then they play no defense. That’s our team. That’s us. We’re an All-Star team.

D’Antoni described his teams as scrubs afterwards.

“I think they played as hard as they can play, and that’s what’s scary,” he said of his players. “I don’t know how we can play harder or blame something else.”

Oh there’s plenty.

Gasol wondered why D’Antoni played a small lineup during Howard’s absence when the Grizzlies boasted Darrell Arthur (20 points), Zach Randolph (12 points) and Marc Gasol (nine points). Nash faulted his own seven point performance on 2 of 6 shooting, while bemoaning Howard’s absence. Earl Clark, the lone bright spot with 11 points and holding Rudy Gay to 3 of 11 shooting, accused his teammates of simply watching Bryant post 29 points on 11 of 23 shooting.

It’s not about talent,” Clark said. “It’s about chemistry. It’s about if the guys out there on the court, if you got each other’s back. Every team in the NBA is talented. It’s about that perfect fit and who plays well together. That’s what a great team’s about.”

That hasn’t happened, leaving Bryant making this revelation on where this season ranks in degree of difficulty in his 17-year NBA career.

“It’s certainly getting there,” Bryant said, tersely. “That Rudy T one was a pretty hard one, too.”

Rudy Tomjanovich coached the Lakers in the 2004-05 season before stepping down in favor of Frank Hamblen. The Lakers missed the playoffs that season for only the second time since 1976. How do the Lakers avoid such a fate this time around?

“I don’t know,” Bryant said. “But I believe we can.”

The Lakers haven’t provided enough assuring signs they will.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mgmedin@gmail.com

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Dwight Howard offers detail on right shoulder; little on team meeting

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.”
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Dwight Howard aggravated right shoulder

MEMPHIS — Dwight Howard may want to restart the season over once again.

After vowing a new outlook on taking a large defensive responsibility, Howard will miss the entire second half of the Lakers’ game tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies because of an aggravated right shoulder. He will be reevaluated at some point Thursday when the team returns to Los Angeles.

He asked out of the game with 2:21 left in the second quarter, clutching his right shoulder. He had injured it two separate times and sat for a week two weeks ago to strengthen it.

Howard proved to be a non-factor against Memphis, posting only two points on zero of four shooting and two rebounds.

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 hope air-it-out meeting leads to productive results

MEMPHIS – With little going right for the Lakers these days, they finally talked. Loudly.

The Lakers had an air-it-out meeting on Wednesday, part of the reason why their morning shootaround lasted for 72 minutes. Normally, the Lakers simply go through walk-throughs pointing out various offensive and defensive sets. Then they conclude it with light shooting. This time, the Lakers discussed what coach Mike D’Antoni characterized as “team work.”

“You never want those kind of meetings because we’re in trouble a little bit,” D’Antoni said. “It doesn’t happen when you’re 40-1. Things needed to be said and needed to happen. Now it’s up to us to make something positive out of it.”

The Lakers (17-24) will find out tonight against the Grizzlies (26-14), which rank second in total defense (89.4 points per game) and already beat the Lakers earlier this season. Memphis boasts a bruising front line in Zach Randolph, who’s second in the NBA with 26 double-doubles., and Marc Gasol The Grizzlies have prolific scorer Rudy Gay, who averages 17.5 points per game. Memphis also has defensive stalwarts in Tony Allen and Mike Conley.
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Jordan Hill expected to recover from hip surgery in six months

MEMPHIS — After having surgery Wednesday morning in Nashville to treat his left hip, Lakers reserve forward Jordan Hill is expected to be sidelined for six months.

That’s the estimate doctors initially told Hill would take, but he received a second opinion Monday just to receive clarity on the timetable. Dr. Thomas Byrd performed the surgery, which entailed removing loose fragments, repairing a torn labrum and a procedure to repair cartilage. Hill will be reevaluated in a month,

Hill, who averaged 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes, injured his left hip in the Lakers’ loss Jan. 6th against the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers applied for a disabled players exception for Hill. The NBA is expected to approve it considering players must be sidelined until at least June 15. The exception would give the Lakers an additional $1.78 million spend. They could use that to sign a free agent for up to one season or acquire a player making up to $1.88 million through a trade.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak recently said he doesn’t feel he needs to add anyone to their 14-player roster, particularly with Earl Clark’s emergence.

“There’s no downside,” Kupchak said. “It gives us more flexibility. It’s not like we’re anticipating using it, but you never know.”

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

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Dwight Howard points finger at himself for Lakers’ struggles

MEMPHIS — After endlessly insisting the Lakers’ woes won’t stop until they start playing “inside-out,” Dwight Howard has started singing a different tune.

“It starts with me,” Howard said. “I have to go out there and dominate defensively and make it tough for teams. I just have to get back to doing that and not worry about the offense.”

The Lakers (17-24) enter tonight’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies (26-14) at FedEx Forum completing a 72-morning shootaround, the longest ever under coach Mike D’Antoni. Among the topics of discussion: D’Antoni wants his team to center more attention on the team’s defensive struggles than worrying about whether the Lakers feature enough post-ups in their offense.

For Howard, that means backing away from his complaints voiced after the Lakers’ loss Sunday to the Chicago about his five field-goal attempts.

“It was immature,” Howard said. “I shouldn’t have done it. Today is a new day and today is a new game.”

Howard even said “this will be a start of a new season,” a motivational tactic D’Antoni tried only 10 days ago. The Lakers then won two straight games against Cleveland and Milwaukee, only to drop the next three against Miami, Toronto and Chicago.

None of this changes the Lakers’ reality. They remain 12th place in the Western Conference, trailing the Houston Rockets by four games for the final eighth playoff spot. The Lakers would likely have to go 31-10 the rest of the way considering the past five eighth seeds have averaged 48 victories.

It also doesn’t change the ongoing speculation on whether Howard will stay with the Lakers once he becomes a free agent this offseason. With how dire the Lakers have performed this season, some believe it’s better the Lakers trade Howard.

“Only reason they’re saying that is because I have an opportunity to walk away at the end of the year,” he said. “But that’s my right at the end of the year. It doesn’t matter what team or whoever decides to do. I plan on being here for the remainder of the season. My focus and team’s focus is do what we can do to get into the playoffs. From there, it’s anybody’s game.”

D’Antoni openly wished Howard stays with the “Lakers for life.” But Howard offered no clarity on his future.

“We’re not discussing that,” he said. “Right now my goal is to win. All I want to do is win. I have to put all my energy and sacrifice whatever I have to do, humble myself and go out there and play.”

Howard has averaged 17.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, his lowest marks since the 2006-07 season. He’s chalked up his reduced numbers in the past to nine-month old back surgery and a decreased role while playing with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace.

“We need to get Dwight involved offensively, but we can’t predicate you better or he won’t play defense,” D’Antoni said. “We need to post him up more and get him the ball more in better spots.”

But Howard believes he can enhance those chances by adopting a different mindset.

“Sometimes I get caught up in stats,” Howard said. “Those stats don’t determine games. I can affect the game without scoring the ball. I have to get back to doing that. It’s not about how many points. I’ve been immature in the past thinking it’s about shots because that’s what people want to see and they’re talking about points and how many times yous core. For me, it’s not even about scoring. It’s bigger than scoring points.”

“I have to do more for this team and there’s a lot of responsibility on my shoulders,” he continued. “I have to step up and take it. It has to be me. It has to start with me. I’m a guy that has to dominate for us to win. We’re not going to win unless I dominate.”

So how does Howard dominate even if he’s not scoring?

“Winning and dominating the game with my presence, pick and rolling and make everybody collapse and our guys getting open shots,” Howard said. “Just small things on how to affect the big picture. And not complain about anything. I have to go out and play and handle it a lot better.”

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

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Jordan Hill to undergo surgery on left hip

After seeking a second opinion Tuesday in Nashville on his season-ending left hip injury, Lakers forward Jordan Hill will have surgery Wednesday morning.

Hill said he has been told he’ll have to sit out at least six months following surgery. Although Hill’s out for the season, his exact recovery time isn’t definitive. The Lakers plan to provide an estimate for Hill’s recovery following his surgery performed by Dr. Thomas Byrd.

Hill injured his left hip in the Lakers’ loss Jan. 6th against the Denver Nuggets. He had appeared in 29 games averaging 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes.

Since then, Lakers forward Earl Clark has proven enough of a pleasant surprise to take the starting power forward spot from Pau Gasol. But the Lakers still miss Hill’s energy, a quality the team mostly lacks.

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Jordan Hill “definitely heartbroken” over season-ending hip surgery

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

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