Kobe Bryant suggests Pau Gasol’s injury puts more pressure on Dwight Howard to return

NEW YORK — The Lakers will find out soon to what degree the strained plantar fasciitis in Pau Gasol’s right foot will limit him.

The Lakers all sounded somber about Gasol’s prospects considering he hobbled off the floor in the final minutes of the team’s 92-83 win Tuesday over the Brooklyn Nets. Does this increase the necessity that Dwight Howard return soon?

“Maybe,” Kobe Bryant said. He then went on to explain what might be contributing to Howard missing three consecutive games because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

“He’s probably worried about the damaged shoulder,” Bryant said. “I don’t think he had to play through injuries his entire career. He’s been relatively healthy. This is a new experience for him.”

Howard missed only seven games in the first seven years of his career before missing 12 regular-season games last season because of a herniated disk in his back that required surgery. He still hasn’t played at 100 percent since his surgery nine months ago. But Bryant argued that’s a different dynamic.

“That’s something that’s debilitating,” Bryant said. “He couldn’t play. The injury that hurts you but you can play through it, that’s something you have to balance out and manage. He’s never had to do that.”

In recent days, the Lakers and Howard have provided mixed messages on the severity of his injury. Howard has said that any more damage to his shoulder without having enough time to regain strength could worsen the labrum enough that it would require surgery, something that would take at least six months of recovery time. Some on the Lakers coaching staff have suggested that even when Howard heals, he will eventually just have to find a way to play through the pain.

Bryant has said that only an injury threatening Howard’s season or career should cause him to sit out. After all, Bryant has shown the ability to play at an elite level despite numerous injuries. He posted 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists and one impressive dunk despite nursing elbow tendinitis in his right arm.

“It’s an experience thing,” Bryant said. “For me, when I was growing up in high school and middle school. Unfortunately and fortunately, I’ve dealt with injuries. Not injuries that are debilitating, but injuries that you have to do and manage the pain. When you go through those things, you learn your body. You know what you can push through. You know what you can’t push through. He’s never been hurt.”

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

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