Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola

Dwight Howard out Friday for Lakers due to shoulder injury

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This shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you read ProBasketballTalk’s story on the injury from Brett Pollakoff, who was in the Lakers’ locker room after the loss to the Suns, you’d know Dwight Howard was in a lot of pain.

Howard will sit out Friday night when the Lakers take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, something first tweeted Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. The Lakers have since confirmed this.

Howard has been playing through the pain of a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He’s been hoping that treatment and rest would keep the pain manageable and he could play through it and not need surgery. However, he missed three games earlier with the injury, had to leave one game early after his shoulder ran into Rudy Gay on a pick, and now he will miss at least one game this time. The injury was aggravated in Phoenix when he tried to bring his arms up for a shot and was fouled across the arms — the strain on his shoulder caused him instant pain.

“It’s real sore,” Howard said after the game. “Everything on this (right) side is hurting pretty bad right now….

“Numbness just went all down my arm and my neck,” he said of what he felt at the moment it was aggravated. “It was pretty bad when it happened.”

This could be more than just one game he misses.

Friday night is the second game of the Lakers Grammy road trip, when the music award show kicks them (and the Clippers) out of Staples Center for two weeks. The Lakers had won three games in a row before the trip started but suffered an ugly come-from-ahead loss to Phoenix, with the Suns comeback coinciding with when Howard went out.

Pau Gasol will get the start at center. That shouldn’t hurt the Lakers offense much but Howard has been much better on the defensive end in terms of protecting the paint. The break for the Lakers is that Minnesota is banged up, too, and will be without Kevin Love.

Report: LeBron James might not play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics because Kobe Bryant won’t

Kobe Bryant (L) and team mate Lebron James of the U.S. sit on the bench during the game against France during their men's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
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LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.

How much?

Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.

James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.

I don’t buy this.

Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.

Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?

I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.

I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?

LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.

The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.

I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.

Did the Clippers reenact Paul Pierce being stabbed during pregame introductions? (video)

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The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.

Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.

Markieff Morris flips off Suns fan (video)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.

As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:

Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7

Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.

Dwight Howard commits ridiculously sloppy inbound violation (video)

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An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.

Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.

But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.

The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.