AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Dwight Howard sat by his locker room stall with a solemn expression.
He’d like to play when the Lakers play today against the Detroit Pistons, but Howard described his aggravated right shoulder as “extremely sore” despite receiving a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection. He also sounded uncertain if he will return when the Lakers play Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets.
“The main thing is for the rest of the season,” Howard said as the reason for his absence. “I don’t want this to happen every week or two where I’m fine and then I take a hard hit and I aggravate it.”
Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni said Howard’s absence was “his call.”
“He’s the only one who can feel the pain,” D’Antoni said. “He can play when there’s no pain or when he feels like he can play. It’s a little bit different than a normal injury. He has to go through what he can tolerate what he can’t.”
Howard sat out of the Lakers’ win Friday at Minnesota after aggravating his shoulder two days earlier in Phoenix, the third time it’s happened in the past month. He’s ruled out having surgery this season. The labrum in his right shoulder isn’t entirely separated, but it’s torn enough from the shoulder where it’s likely he will have to manage the injury all season. It doesn’t help that Howard plays the center position.
“It’s not the physical part that’s the problem,” Howard said. “It’s how they foul. Sometimes if I’m not in the right position and I’m not stable, I can’t aggravate that shoulder. I’ll do what I can to get it stronger.”
Howard downplayed whether he could take some lessons from Kobe Bryant on how he played through various shoulder injuries in past seasons, noting the different positions they play. But the Lakers, Howard included, believe he needs to improve how he handles the ball in the post. Opponents aggravated his shoulder each time Howard leaned down, a tactic that made it more vulnerable.
“He has to learn how to take the ball under his chin and not take it down,” Lakers coach Mike D’Atoni said. “He has a habit of taking it down and that’s when they’re loading up on him. THey don’t care about him shooting foul shots and that’s when they unload on him. That’s a problem. Hopefully he can get that out of his game.”
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