The worst-case scenario Dwight Howard feared would keep him sidelined never materialized.
Howard is scheduled to play tonight when the Lakers (17-25) host the Utah Jazz (23-19) at Staples Center after specialist Dr. James Tibone found no further damage on his aggravated right shoulder. Howard received the examination on the team's day off Thursday in Los Angeles.
Howard, who had missed three games about two weeks ago because of his injured shoulder, felt additional pain during the Lakers' 106-93 loss Wednesday to the Memphis Grizzlies while trying to fight through a screen set by Rudy Gay. Howard grabbed his shoulder and asked Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni to remove him with 2:21 left in the second quarter. Howard stayed in the locker room during the second half.
"It felt real bad," Howard said as he exited the arena. "I didn't want to try to play through it. I didn't want to hurt it any worse."
Howard had to handle more than a hurt shoulder.
The Lakers' air-it-out meeting before the team's morning shootaround Wednesday left Howard downplaying Kobe Bryant confronting him about his frustrations playing with him. Howard also sounded contrite after the morning shootaround, stressing he'll take a larger defensive responsibility and proclaiming "the start of the new season."
Howard might want to hit the restart button again.
What are the odds?
The stock plummeted on the Lakers' championship fortunes so much that some Las Vegas oddsmakers have collected wagers on whether they'll even make the playoffs.
"This was a special proposition that we threw out," said Jay Korenegay, vice president of race and sports for the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. "It received a lot of attention from the betters."
The Lakers are currently wagered at $1.30 in pick-em games to make the postseason. Korenegay expects to increase the buy-in prices if the struggles persist.
"Many are pessimistic about them making the playoffs," Koregay said. "I was one of the more optimistic ones thinking that they would probably make a run But many think they will never get better. The chemistry is not there and they're not playing that well."
Off the list
The Lakers have hardly played like All-Stars. Hence, it's not surprising Lakers forward Pau Gasol and guard Steve Nash didn't make the list of Western Conference reserves, which included James Harden (Houston), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City), Tony Parker (San Antonio), LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland), Tim Duncan (San Antonio), David Lee (Golden State) and Zach Randolph (Memphis). Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard were voted as starters.
Gasol, a four-time All-Star, has encountered various challenges. They include injuries (right foot, knee tendinitis, concussion), changing from post player to stretch forward and having career lows in points (12.7), shooting percentage (43.1) and rebounds (8.2). Nash, whom the Lakers acquired from Phoenix this offseason, has averaged 10.9 points on 51 percent shooting and 8.6 assists. But he missed 24 games because of a fractured left leg.
Despite the Lakers earning the Fantastic Four nickname for their star power, TNT analyst Steve Kerr sounded skeptical beforehand Nash and Gasol would make the cut.
"I didn't think Nash would be an All-Star with this team," Kerr said. "I knew the production would go down based on the talent around him and the ball being in Kobe's hands a lot. I thought Kobe and Howard were automatics and Gasol was right on the fringe. But playing Dwight and Pau together would be tricky for anybody."