BOSTON — Well, Dwight Howard’s not smiling anymore.
He remains a game-time decision when the Lakers play tonight against the Boston Celtics because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and he made it clear he’s not going to rush back onto the court until it’s fully healed.
“I want to play,” Howard said. “Why wouldn’t I want to play? At the same time, this is my career, my future and this is my life. I can’t leave that up to anybody else. There’s nobody else that will take care of me. If people are pissed off that I don’t play or if I do play, so what? This is my career. If I go down, then what? Everybody’s life is going to go on. I don’t want to have another summer where I’m rehabbing and trying to get healthy again. I want to come back and have another great year.”
A firestorm brewed out here after an ESPN.com report quoted Kobe Bryant suggesting he needs to come back from his injured shoulder quickly.
“We don’t have time for [Howard's shoulder] to heal,” Bryant was quoted in the article. “We need some urgency.”
But Bryant said he wasn’t insinuating at all that Howard needs to return even if he’s not fully healthy.
“There’s an urgency to be out there,” Bryant said, “but not at the cost of making his shoulder worse.”
Although Howard said he “felt all right” participating in morning shootaround,” he wants to remain patient. He’s well aware what playing through a herniated disk in his back ultimately required him to have surgery. Howard still hasn’t fully recovered from that.
“I dont want that situation to happen again,” Howard said. “Last year, I wanted to prove and show people I can play through injuries. The back is somethng serious. I don’t want that to happen.”
“The post is not an easy position,” Howard said. “You’re pushing guys 260 and 270 and have to use a lot of force. If I play tonight, we’ll see how it feels later on and if I don’t we just have to move forward.”
That’s why Howard hardly cared what Bryant may or may not have said about him.
“He’s not a doctor. I’m not a doctor,” Howard said. “That’s his opinion.”
That’s why Howard and Bryant have discussed his injury.
“I thought we’re both in agreement that if it’s not something that will become worse, that he should be out there playing,” Bryant said. “I don’t need to have a conversation with him. I don’t know what his injury is. I leave it up to him. It’s really on you. They don’t come up to me and ask me about my elbow. It’s about the individual and the training staff.”
The Lakers mostly echoed the same things. Almost.
“I think everyone has to play through some pain,” Lakers guard Steve Nash said. “I’m not sure where Dwight is exactly with his. Hopefully he’s ready to come back soon. I think it’s inevitable he’s going to feel some discomfort and pain.”
Regardless, the Lakers will play without Pau Gasol, who is being examined today by a team doctor and foot specialist after an MRI revealed he has a tear in the plantar fascia of his right foot. If Howard doesn’t start at center, Earl Clark will play at that position. Meanwhile, Metta World Peace and Antawn Jamison will play at both forward spots.
“Those are tricky things,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “If a guy is hurt, he’s hurt. He says there’s pain. He has a career and everything else. He has to be the guy tho judge with the trainers or doctors. They’ll decide whether he plays tonight.”
If not, Howard has at least one teammate on his side.
“He’s a great person. We don’t focus on guy’s body parts. But we do love each other. That’s all that matters,” Lakers forward Metta World Peace said. “I would say he’s a soldier. I’m not going to question his injury. He’s hurt to me. We have to go out there and hold it down for him tonight.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org