LOS ANGELES -- In what could end up being his last game in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform, Dwight Howard was ejected after picking up his second technical foul shortly after halftime in Sunday's Game 4 against the San Antonio Spurs.
Howard's second tech came from arguing with a referee with 9:51 to go in the third quarter and the already-thin Lakers trailing 55-34.
"It's over with now," Howard said of his ejection. "I just got to do a better job of trying to keep my cool. It's very tough to be out there playing. It's an emotional game, you don't want to lose, and sometimes when things don't go your way, sometimes you react the wrong way. I just got to keep my cool."
Howard later apologized in a series of Twitter posts.
"Im still upset about tonights game and the way this season ended," Howard tweeted around 3:30 a.m. ET Monday morning. "Im mad I lost my cool. Im sorry for letting my team and our fans down when ... they needed me the most. If there's one thing I've learned this year its that I need to be more responsible for my actions and learn to ... 'breathe'!"
Coach Mike D'Antoni defended Howard, saying "I'm sure he didn't mean to."
"He takes a pounding and after a while I guess his nerves are shot or whatever, but obviously we were in a deep hole anyways so I felt bad for him," D'Antoni said. "Understand it's easy when you sit there like us and just watch, but when you're playing you've got a lot of adrenaline going so it's a hard situation and obviously that wouldn't have happened if the series was a little bit different."
Lakers legend and ESPN analyst Magic Johnson was not so apologetic in a series of critical tweets:
• "Dwight Howard that was a big No, No. Your teammates and the fans were counting on you."
• "Dwight, I've been swept before but I never let my team down by getting kicked out of the game."
• "Dwight with an already depleted team you couldn't afford to foul out or get kicked out. Having you on the floor was the only chance for the @Lakers."
The Spurs completed a sweep of the Lakers, winning 103-82.
"It's like a nightmare, it's like a bad dream and we couldn't wake up out of it," Howard said about the season. "That's what it felt like. It seemed like nothing could go right from the start, injuries and all that stuff, but we can get an opportunity to get some rest for guys who are injured, coming off injuries. A chance to rehab and think about what we can all do to better ourselves."
Howard becomes a free agent July 1 and failed to leave Lakers fans with a positive last impression.
"It was a rocky year," he said. "A lot of things happened that I didn't have any control over. I think I handled some situations good and I think I handled some situations bad, but it's a growing process. You keep growing, you keep learning. That's why we have the offseason, to get an opportunity to reflect on the good and bad things that happened during the season and try to make it better for the next year."
When asked by a reporter if his answer about using the summer for his Lakers teammates to get healthy showed some "optimism" for Howard re-signing in L.A., the center said, "You're reading too much into it."
"There's a lot of things I learned this year," Howard said. "Next year I just got to be mentally stronger to handle a lot of different situations and that's about it."
When he hits free agency, Howard can sign a five-year, $118 million contract to stay with the Lakers, or a four-year, $87.6 million deal with another team.
"I'm going to step away from everything for a couple weeks and clear my head before I do or talk about anything as far as next season," Howard said. "I think I deserve that, and that's what I'm going to do."
"I was in pain for the whole season, but I just wanted to try to play through it and fight through it and I'm grateful I'm still standing. I'm just going to keep fighting."
While Howard acknowledged that he and Bryant are "not best friends," he said their relationship was not as rocky as it might have seemed at times this season.
"We've had a pretty good relationship before I got here and I think a lot of people twisted a lot of things, the fake fights that people said we supposedly had, we maintained a pretty good relationship and we'll continue to be here for him throughout a process that he has to go through recovering from his Achilles," Howard said.
But Howard clamped down when asked about playing for D'Antoni again next season, saying: "I don't want to talk about anything that's for the upcoming season and next year. I just want to reflect on this year and try to get myself better and come back 100 percent."
Howard was whistled for his first technical foul with 50.3 seconds remaining in the first quarter on Sunday for elbowing Spurs guard Cory Joseph.
"That's Cory, that's how he is," the Spurs' Danny Green said. "He's an energy guy. He's always biting, scratching and doing the little things that we need him to do all season. We expect that from him, but I'm sure that Dwight was surprised."
After Howard's second technical, the nine-year veteran clapped hands with a few teammates by the bench before making his way through the tunnel to the locker room.
Howard finished with seven points on 2-for-2 shooting, eight rebounds and five turnovers while going 3-for-9 from the free throw line in 21 minutes.