Dwight Howard returns vs. Celtics

BOSTON -- Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard started against the Boston Celtics on Thursday night after missing the past three games with a sore shoulder.

Howard played 28 minutes, collecting nine points and nine rebounds before fouling out in the Lakers' 116-95 loss.

"There were a couple times where I felt (the shoulder pain)," he said, "but I just tried not to think about it."

Howard aggravated a torn labrum in his right shoulder during the Lakers' 92-86 loss to the Phoenix Suns at the start of their seven-game road trip.

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

Howard responded to the comments earlier Thursday.

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

Howard also addressed his critics as a whole.

"I want to play," Howard said after the team's morning shootaround. "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."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.