Dwight Howard downplays injury

Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard attempted to downplay the severity of his shoulder injury Tuesday, claiming his labrum is not torn -- contrary to what the team had announced a day earlier.

Howard clarified his medical condition prior to the team's 125-112 loss to the Houston Rockets, hoping he could calm some Lakers fans' nerves.

"My labrum, a piece of it separated from the bone," Howard said. "When people saw it, they was thinking the worst. It's not as bad as what people were saying."

A separation is still technically a tear, but Howard explained that his injury is not as serious as a torn labrum typically would be for an athlete.

"(The doctor) just said he doesn't want me to continue to aggravate it every night because that could cause problems later on in the season, or it could come to a point where someone fouled me hard enough and I tear the labrum, so (the doctor) doesn't want that to happen," Howard said.

Howard is scheduled to have his shoulder re-evaluated early next week; an MRI revealed the tear Monday. The All-Star center sounded optimistic that he could return to the court shortly after that re-evaluation.

"I'm not going to put a timetable on it," Howard said. "Just hopefully in a week or so, I'll have enough strength so when they test it again, I'll be in pretty good shape."

The Lakers play in San Antonio on Wednesday, at home against Oklahoma City on Friday, and home against Cleveland on Sunday -- three games that Howard will miss. If Howard is cleared early next week, he would be available for home games on Tuesday against Milwaukee and Thursday against Miami.

Howard, 27, said the pain in his shoulder has improved since Monday, but he does not want to return to game action until the pain is gone completely.

"I don't want to have to play with the pain because when you're in games, adrenaline pumping and all that stuff, you don't feel it that much -- and the more and more you aggravate it, the worse it gets," Howard said. "I don't want it to get bad to where later on in the season, like I said, something happens to where I'm going up and somebody fouls me hard, it tears and I have to have surgery. I don't want any more surgeries."

Howard said the fact that he was able to finish the game against the Los Angeles Clippers, when he initially suffered the injury after getting his arms tangled up with Caron Butler, and was able to follow that up by tying a career high with 26 rebounds against the Denver Nuggets, was a testament to the severity of his injury.

"If I needed surgery, I wouldn't have been able to play that game and the next game," Howard said. "I wouldn't be able to do none of this stuff."

Howard is concentrating solely on rehabilitating his shoulder through stabilization exercises with Lakers director of physical therapy Dr. Judy Seto.

"I'll gauge it in a week to see where my pain level is," Howard said. "If there's not any pain, hopefully I can play. I'm going to continue to do the rehab and strengthen my shoulder. I have a lot of strength in it now. Like I said, they want to be super-cautious and make sure nothing bad happens."

The Lakers' other injured starter, Pau Gasol, was re-examined by neurologist Dr. Vern Williams on Tuesday after suffering a concussion Sunday against Denver. Gasol was not cleared to resume playing basketball and will be re-evaluated by Williams on Thursday.

The examinations are part of the NBA's new concussion protocol that was adopted last season.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, who played in the NBA and had great success playing overseas, said players in his era played through concussions and "that's not a good thing."

"You see most of the ex-players walking around now, you know that's not a good thing," D'Antoni said. "It's got to be good. It's for their safety and their benefit, and the league has studied it and doctors have studied it."

Lakers forward Jordan Hill continues to be out indefinitely with a torn labrum in his left hip, also suffered in the Denver game. He will be re-evaluated next week.