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Lakers' issues include Howard, injuries

The SportsXchange

As the Los Angeles Lakers headed into Game 4 of their first-round NBA playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night, there were questions about Dwight Howard's future with the franchise and teammate Pau Gasol's finger.

The Lakers have insisted that they want Howard to return next season. Howard insists that thefuture isn't on his mind at the moment.

"I haven't thought about it," he said.

There's no denying that he hasn't lived up to expectations in his first season with the Lakers after coming to the team last summer from the Orlando Magic. He averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds during the regular season, but he was hampered by injuries and his scoring average was the lowest since his second year in the NBA.

Howard, 27, will become a free agent on July 1, at which point he has the option to sign a five-year, $118 million contract to remain in LA or a four-year, $87.6 million deal elsewhere. There are various reports that Howard will test the free-agent waters.

Meanwhile, Gasol planned to play Sunday night against the Spurs with a splint on his right middle finger after tearing a ligament. He's also battling a knee issue that could require off-season surgery.

Injuries have hit the Lakers hard, sidelining Steve Nash and Metta World Peace during the series and star Kobe Bryant before the playoffs.
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