Dwight Howard fires back at critics

BOSTON -- Dwight Howard is fed up and let it be known that he is tired of other people trying to assess the severity of his shoulder injury.

"I want to play," Howard said after participating in shootaround in advance of the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Boston Celtics on Thursday. "I mean, why wouldn't I want to play? But at the same time, this is my career, this is my future, this is my life. I can't leave that up to anybody else because nobody else is going to take care of me. So, if people are pissed off that I don't play or if I do play, whatever it may be, so what? This is my career. If I go down, then what? Everybody's life is going to go on. I don't want to have another summer where I'm rehabbing and trying to get healthy again. I want to come back and have another great year. That's what I want to do."

Howard ended up starting for the Lakers, collecting nine points and nine rebounds before fouling out after 28 minutes in the team's 116-95 loss.

Howard had missed the past three games after aggravating a torn labrum in his right shoulder in the Lakers' 92-86 loss to the Phoenix Suns at the start of their current seven-game road trip.

Kobe Bryant publicly challenged Howard to return, telling ESPNBoston.com's Jackie MacMullan on Wednesday, "We don't have time for [Howard's shoulder] to heal. ... We need some urgency."

Howard dismissed Bryant's stance.

"That's his opinion, that's it," Howard said. "He's not a doctor, I'm not a doctor. That's his opinion."

Bryant said that his comments on Wednesday weren't meant to turn up the pressure on Howard in light of the news that Pau Gasol has a torn plantar fascia in his right foot.

"There's an urgency to be out there, but it's not at the cost of making his shoulder worse," Bryant said after shootaround. "I've always said if he was healthy enough to play and there was a situation where he wasn't going to make it any worse then he should be playing. There should be an urgency about that, but I don't think I said anything that was different [than what I said before]."

Bryant wasn't the only one of Howard's teammates to clamor for the All-Star center's return, however.

"I think everyone has got to play through some pain in this league and I'm not sure where Dwight exactly with his [injury], but hopefully he's ready to come back soon," Steve Nash said. "I think it's inevitable he's going to feel some discomfort and pain."

Metta World Peace spoke up in support of Howard, citing how effective he has been while coming off offseason back surgery.

"He's doing great and [he is] a great teammate," World Peace said. "He's out there, he had a couple 20-20 games and is averaging 18 and 11 or something like that playing hurt coming off that back surgery. I would say he's a soldier and I'm not going to question his injury. He's hurt to me. We have to go out there and we have to hold it down for him."

Howard said he feels he mishandled his back injury last season in Orlando, and that's shaping how he deals with his shoulder this season.

"I don't want that situation to happen again," Howard said. "Last year I wanted to prove and show people that I can play through injuries, but the back is something serious and I don't want that to happen again."

Howard was asked if he could see his shoulder injury becoming worse if he gets back on the court.

"Yes, [with] the way I play," Howard said. "The post is not an easy position. You're pushing guys [who weigh] 260-270 [pounds] and you have to use a lot of force to do that. If I play tonight, we'll see how I feel later on. If I don't, we'll just have to move forward."