EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – As if things weren’t already bad enough for the Los Angeles Lakers, the news got much worse Monday.
Following a third straight loss that dropped them to 15-18, the team called off practice and announced center Dwight Howard would miss at least a week with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He originally was injured Friday night against the Clippers and had an MRI early Monday morning. He was adamant about avoiding an operation, saying, “I just have to make sure that I’m cautious, make sure that I get healthy. No surgery. No surgery.”
Ironically, Howard had one of his most dominant games as a Laker despite the shoulder injury, grabbing 26 rebounds, blocking four shots and scoring 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field in Sunday’s 112-105 loss to the Denver Nuggets. The 26 rebounds tied his career high. “I told him he might have 40 (rebounds) if he had both arms,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.
A painful shoulder injury isn’t the only thing Howard had to deal with Monday afternoon.
A New York Daily News report claimed a league source told the paper that Howard and Kobe Bryant nearly came to blows following a New Year’s Day loss to the Philadelphia 76ers when Bryant allegedly said he agreed with Shaquille O’Neal’s assessment of Howard being “soft.”
Bryant, Howard and D’Antoni denied there has ever been a near-physical altercation between the two players. “It does bother you to hear stuff like that,” Bryant said, “especially when it’s not true at all.”
In light of the alleged altercation, Bryant posted a photo on Twitter — Howard doing the same on Instagram — mocking the fight. Kobe is shown posing with Howard in a pre-fight showdown in the training room with D’Antoni sitting between the two. Bryant jokingly tweeted, “The mamba vs d12 !! It’s on lol.”
D’Antoni said he believes there may be a conspiracy — he wouldn’t name any conspirators — to try and destroy the Lakers from the outside. And Howard agrees.
“Nothing happened,” Dwight stated adamantly, “and none of it came out of this locker room.
“It’s funny. We’re losing now and every story is geared toward trying to break this team apart. But we’re better than that. We’re stronger than that and we’re not going to let anything divide us.”
Even stinging tweets from one of the team’s all-time icons.
Lakers great Magic Johnson took to Twitter again — a list of his rants is available below — saying among other things that while Kobe Bryant is having a great year, he isn’t showing enough leadership. Bryant said “that’s ridiculous” and while Kobe admits that Johnson has certainly earned the cache to criticize his former team, Bryant says he’s wrong.
“I’m no slouch myself,” Bryant said pointedly. “I know what I’m doing out there.”
Johnson and Bryant are both five-time NBA champions with the Lakers.
And to top off the trifecta of trouble, it was also revealed that forward Pau Gasol is out for an indefinite period of time with a concussion, the result of an elbow from Denver’s JaVale McGee on Sunday. And forward Jordan Hill is day to day with a hip injury.
All three big men will not play during the Lakers’ trip to Texas this week. They face the Houston Rockets on Tuesday and the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday before returning home to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
Both Gasol and Hill are also backups at the center position, so, according to D’Antoni, fourth-string center Robert Sacre will likely start the next two games. As soon as they can get him back from the D-Fenders, their minor-league team in the NBA’s Developmental League.
Magic Johnson’s Twitter rants about the Lakers:
@MagicJohnson @KobeBryant is having a an MVP type season but the team needs him to be a better leader…@SteveNash scoring more and throwing more assists will help the @Lakers!
As @Lakers fans we demand and expect more once you put that@Lakers Purple & Gold uniform on!
All 12 @Lakers players need to understand what it means to be a member of the @Lakers.
Above everything else the @Lakers players need to start having fun on the court!
Coach D’Antoni has to start teaching better pick & roll defense and better defensive rotations…He also has to make He also has to make sure that every @Lakers players role is defined.
The @Lakers big men have to stop giving up easy offensive rebounds…the perimeter players have to start getting back on defense to stop the fast breaks of their opponents!
@MettaWorldPeace has to stop making great quotes and start playing great defense…@JMeeks20 has to start making better shot selections.
@DwightHoward has to stop complaining and start dominating on offense….@PauGasol has to stop playing soft and get back to 18pts & 10rebs!
I’m tired of blaming the coach, the responsibility is on the @Lakersplayers.