MINNEAPOLIS — Dwight Howard’s aggravated labrum in his right shoulder hasn’t healed enough for him to suit up when the Lakers (20-26) play the Minnesota Timberwolves (17-25) at 6:30 p.m. PST tonight at Target Center.
Howard didn’t participate in morning shootaround and spent some of that time going through strengthening exercises with Lakers physical therapist Judy Seto. After recently coming off the bench, Pau Gasol will start at center.
“That’s one story you won’t have to write,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni joked.
Lakers trainer Gary Vitti looked at Howard’s shoulder Thursday in Minneapolis and considered the shoulder sore after he aggravated it for the third time in four weeks in the Lakers’ loss Wednesday to the Phoenix Suns.
“He said pain was in there,” D’Antoni said. “He’ll play when there’s no pain. That’ll be day to day. We’ll have to see.”
The injury wasn’t considered serious enough for Howard to see a doctor, and the Lakers are listing him as day-to-day. Howard has also shot down any possibility he will have surgery because he’d sit out for at least six months.
But Howard described his pain level as “really sore” following the Lakers’ loss Wednesday to the Phoenix Suns. In that game, Shannon Brown’s blocked shot on Howard prompted him to fall. Howard said he felt “numbness” all over his right arm and neck as he lay on the court for several seconds before leaving the game. The Lakers led 78-73 with 6:56 left to play when Howard left, and they never recovered.
Howard said his shoulder felt just as painful when he initially injured the shoulder in the Lakers’ loss Jan. 4 to the Clippers when Caron Butler fouled him hard as he drove into the lane. Three days later, Howard received an MRI that revealed a shoulder tear. He sat out the next three games.
Howard reinjured the shoulder in the second quarter of the Lakers’ loss last week against Memphis. The same thing happened in Phoenix.
The Lakers don’t plan to sit Howard for a significant chunk of time, meaning it’s possible he could still play Sunday against the Detroit Pistons.
“We won’t shut him down,” D’Antoni said. “It’ll always be there. Even if we shut him down, it’ll still be there. The next time he gets hit, it’s going to hurt him. It’s a pain thing.”
That means Howard will likely have to play through it, somehow avoiding future contact without inhibiting his aggressiveness. How can Howard do that?
“I never had one; I don’t know,” D’Antoni said. “It hurts. Hopefully he doesn’t get hit on it. It’s going to hurt. Take a lot of Tylenol.”
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