The Los Angeles Lakers suffered yet another setback in their quest to make the playoffs on Wednesday night, faltering 92-86 on the road against the Phoenix Suns.
After the game, Howard spoke to the media and acknowledged that he would consider resting in order to get healthy and limit further injury to the same area: “I'm going to try as much as I can but I don't want to cause more damage to my shoulder. I don't want to (miss any games), but we'll see.”
Unlike his teammate, Kobe Bryant didn’t seem concerned about long-term health issues. It was clear that the Black Mamba had the immediate future on his mind when he claimed that Howard should be able to play through the pain:
I'm not worried about it. It is going to be an all-season thing. That's how those types of injuries are with the labrum. I've had them before. Lamar (Odom) when he was here had them before. It's one of those things when you get banged like that going up, you're going to get that stinging sensation. That's just how it's going to be.
Back in 2003, Bryant underwent surgery for a labrum tear in the same shoulder as D12. However, he waited until the summer to have the procedure done, even though it’s suspected he suffered the injury toward the end of the regular season. He knows it is possible to continue playing and expects Dwight to step up in a time of need.
It’s readily apparent that the Lakers need Howard on the floor in order to win. The center came out with 6:57 remaining in the final period of Wednesday’s loss, allowing the Suns to make a 19-8 run and cap an incredible comeback.
This game was supposed to be veteran point guard Steve Nash’s triumphant return to the desert, but will instead wind up being remembered for L.A.’s embarrassing display of basketball in crunch time and Howard’s disappearance down the stretch.
The big man finished with nine points, 14 rebounds and one block, but it simply wasn’t enough and more is expected from one of the NBA’s biggest superstars. He’s being counted on to give it his all every night, so Bryant needs to continue to coerce his teammate to man up and get back on the court as soon as possible.
What should Howard do?
At 20-26, the Lakers are currently sitting five games back from the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
John Hollinger of ESPN estimates the franchise has a 29 percent chance to make the playoffs, but that number will change if D12 winds up sidelined for a stretch with the shoulder injury.
Bryant knows that as well as the rest of Laker Nation, so it’s now up to Howard to dig deep and find if he has what it takes to grit through this and save the season.