Lakers center Dwight Howard dunks against the Utah Jazz last month. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Speaking with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN Radio in New York, Dwight Howard said his back is at "75%" and his shoulder is "day to day."
The Lakers center sat the last three games after re-aggravating his shoulder injury. The team certainly needs him back on the court with Pau Gasol going down with a torn plantar fascia.
"There are days when [my shoulder] feels really good and then I get in the game, get hit and it's not as good," said Howard. "For right now I just have to learn how to play through it and try to mix up my game. I'm known for always coming up and that leaves me vulnerable to guys hitting me, so I'm going to try to play at 75% and keep the ball up here."
Howard also has some comments that were concerning regarding the status of his back.
"For me, even sitting down in this chair right now -- is causing my legs to go numb and having this tingly sensation all the way down my legs," he said. "That happens when I'm playing and that happens when I'm just sitting on the bench for a couple of minutes. It's not easy. There are times when I can't feel my legs when I'm out there playing."
After back surgery in April, Howard came back halfway through the Lakers' preseason.
"When I got injured, my nerves in my legs were short-circuited -- so basically because of my disk being on my nerves . . . everything [shut] down from my back all the way down to my toes," said Howard. "It usually takes a year and some people take longer. Most of it has healed up in less than three months. That's why I was able to come back and play as fast as I was, but I'm still not ready to play yet."
Howard hasn't given the Lakers a long-term commitment beyond his current contract, which expires after the season. While he still wouldn't tip his hand, Howard gave his feelings on being a Laker.
"Everything is about winning," said Howard. "Everything is about pride and dignity and the historical background of the Lakers is amazing. You walk into the practice facility and see all the jerseys, the banners and all that stuff and it's something to look up to and look forward to. That's something that I really enjoy on a daily basis is getting treated by people that have the same goal and same mission as you -- second place doesn't exist. That's what I love about it."
The Lakers need Howard to step into that ideal, especially with Gasol on the mend.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.