MINNEAPOLIS — Without even knowing it, Dwight Howard was doing a modern-day impression of that famous Rodin statue, resting his chin on his hand as he hunched over in his chair.
He had his back turned to reporters at his locker Wednesday night and was lost in his thinking. Finally he rose, had an ice wrap removed from his right shoulder and showered.
The latest snag in the Lakers' season is the repeated aggravation of a torn labrum in Howard's shoulder. He has already missed three games because of it and left two others early, most recently Wednesday in a 92-86 loss to Phoenix.
The Lakers were leading, 78-73, when Shannon Brown blocked Howard's shot with 6:56 to play. Howard went down on the court for several seconds and never returned, saying he felt numbness "all down my arm and my neck."
Afterward, Howard slowly pulled a gray tank top over his head before talking with reporters.
He is listed as day to day after being evaluated by Lakers trainer Gary Vitti on Thursday. The Lakers play at Minnesota on Friday.
Surgery is not an option, Howard said Wednesday, knowing it would keep him off the court for six months.
"Two years of having injuries is not something that's easy to deal with, but I won't lose my spirit," said Howard, who never finished his final season in Orlando because of back surgery last April.
He initially injured the shoulder Jan. 4 when Clippers forward Caron Butler struck him while trying to strip the ball. Howard tied a career high with 26 rebounds the next game against Denver, then sat out three games after an MRI exam revealed the shoulder tear.
Ten days after returning, he reinjured the shoulder in the second quarter against Memphis on Jan. 23 and left the game. Then he was hurt again against Phoenix.
"I'm not worried about it," Kobe Bryant said. "It is going to be an all-season thing. That's how those type of injuries are with the labrum. I've had them before. Lamar [Odom], when he was here, had them before. 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.
"You just accept it. After a while, you kind of get used to playing with it, but it's a little bit of an adjustment at first."
The Lakers were already starting to fade against the Suns when Howard left. Steve Nash's Phoenix homecoming was officially ruined because the Lakers coughed up a 13-point fourth-quarter lead.
"Losing Dwight was big," Nash said. "It's kind of the way our season's been. It's tough.
"This team is built to play around a center. We're not athletic or fast elsewhere, but we're experienced and obviously have skilled players. But that's all predicated around having that defensive presence and having a big body in the paint at both ends."
The Lakers (20-26) were abysmal in the fourth quarter against the Suns, scoring only 13 points.
They were also invisible in the locker room. After combining to make 12 of 30 shots, Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol left without talking to reporters.
Hey, look at the bright side. The Lakers have won 19 consecutive games against Minnesota (17-25).
It's so trivial that nobody brought it up to them after they lost in Phoenix. They're running out of silver linings in their playbook.
It has been a tough season for Gasol, averaging career lows in points (12.8) and field-goal percentage (44.8%) while moving in and out of Coach Mike D'Antoni's lineup.
But Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio stood up Thursday for his friend and fellow Spaniard.
"He proved to the league he is one of the best," Rubio told reporters. "He can pass. He can shoot. He can rebound. He can do a lot of things. I think if you use him in the right way he is a top player in this league. If they don't want him, we are more than welcome to get him."