Dwight Howard made his return to the Los Angeles Lakers lineup on Thursday after missing the previous four games in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Due to Anthony Davis’ knee injury, Howard went from out for four games to the starting lineup, playing 22 minutes.
Howard put together a solid performance with four points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks. However, he was crushed in the San Antonio Spurs pick-and-roll and was clearly a step slow. The Spurs dominated the short-handed Lakers 138-110 in one of their worst losses of the season.
It’s hard to take anything the Lakers do right now too seriously, as they’re mostly playing players that should not even be on an NBA roster right now. But even guys like Howard who are supposed to be there are playing at less than full strength after being taken out of their routine for a week.
The Lakers center spoke about how he felt in his return and was frank in admitting he wasn’t 100%.
“Tired. I was tired. Sitting out and not being able to train or do nothing for that period of time and then trying to come back and play, tried to play as hard as I could, but I was extremely exhausted,” Howard said. “Give credit to the Spurs, they came in and had a good game plan, they stuck with it the whole night. Guys made some big shots and Diop, he didn’t miss except two free throws. Other than that, he played an amazing game.”
When asked if COVID was the reason for his exhaustion, he pushed back and offered a different reasoning.
“No. When you sit out from playing basketball, it only takes three days to get out of condition. So not being able to train for that period of time, the team played four games while we were sitting out in protocols, so not being able to train, you’re gonna be a little out of conditioning when you come back so that is expected. So I just tried to run as hard as I could, just tried to run it out. It was very tough but I’m not gonna blame it on Covid.”
Hopefully, Howard and the rest of the Lakers that missed time will quickly find their way to normal form. L.A. is now on a four-game skid and has fallen below .500 prior to their Christmas Day game against the Brooklyn Nets.
At full strength, Howard can be a vital presence for the Lakers in the absence of Davis, as he provides rim protection and a high-quality lob threat for LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. But he alone cannot fix the Lakers’ defensive issues.
Howard discusses mental and physical toll of COVID
When Howard initially tested positive for COVID, he felt immediate emotions over a number of things. He discussed his experience and the time he missed.
“I was just mad. I was just mad at getting into the protocol because I didn’t want to miss any days,” Howard said. “But other than that I was just a little tired. Had a little cough for about a day or two and then after that I just continued to make sure I got all of the proper things that were gonna help me flush this virus out.
“And kept my energy high. I think fear can be a big factor in Covid, causing you to break down and your body to break down. So I just made sure that always, like I say with basketball, stay positive, kept myself in a good head space and good spirit and I was able to fight it off. I know everybody’s situation or experience is different with it, but for me, I found that being positive, saying positive things and speaking out positivity throughout the whole process, I was able to get through it faster.
“But it does suck having to sit in a room by yourself away from everyone whole you’re going through something. You usually want to be around people, your friends or family and stuff like that, you’re loved ones. So that can be a lot of stress on a lot of people so it’s very understanding.”
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