Dwight Howard ejected from what could be his last Lakers game, Kobe Bryant returns to bench (Videos)

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During the first quarter of Sunday night’s San Antonio Spurs 103-82 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard received a technical foul for “holding his ground” and elbowing Spurs guard Cory Joseph after Dwight was intentionally fouled by several Spurs. During TNT’s halftime presentation in the middle of that Game 4, Charles Barkley disagreed with colleague Shaquille O’Neal on the TNT set, pointing out that Howard’s show of machismo probably wasn’t the smart move, considering the NBA fact that one more technical foul would lead to his ejection from what would end up being the Lakers’ final game of the season.

Howard would be aware of this potential reality, though, right? He wouldn’t jeopardize at least a dignified end to a terrible season by earning that second penalty, because that would be ridiculous.

In a season full of the ridiculous, Howard gave his miserable year a suitable ending. He was ejected for the game for showing up the referees following a non-call that did not go his way just over two minutes into the second half. Watch:

[Related: Lakers fans given white flags ... ahem ... towels before Spurs game]

It must be frustrating beyond belief to have to work as an NBA big man with skills, knowing that there are defenders out there (like, in this case, San Antonio’s Aron Baynes) who are sent onto the court only to use up their allotted six fouls and test the referee’s interest in keeping post play clean. Howard knew he had already thrown off the scent with that first-half technical, though, and should have known better (way, WAY better) than to not only bark at the referees following a non-call, but also wave and point at the ref following the play. No pun intended — technically, that’s an immediate technical just for that particular move. The NBA initiated that rule years ago.

Howard is a free agent this summer, and while we could go into some breathless pseudo-reporting about how this fitting end to a disappointing year could set the stage for a free-agent release from Los Angeles, everyone should remember that he can make more money both on and off the court next season after re-signing with the Lakers, and that Howard (who infamously was talked into picking up his player option with an Orlando Magic team he didn’t want to be a part of) appears averse to making big decisions that make him look like the big bad guy on his own.

And, of course, because we can’t let the attention shift too far away from his Mambaness … here’s Kobe Bryant!

Yes, less than two minutes later, Bryant (out until 2013-14 after tearing his Achilles earlier this month) decided to make his first appearance on the Laker bench since his injury. Players with Achilles tears are generally asked to stay away from the bench because of the significance of a tear like that, but with the Lakers clearly minutes away from ending this terrible season, Bryant decided to join his squad for one last loss.

This leaves Bryant, Howard, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace all inactive for the better part of the second half of the team’s season-ending game against the Spurs. A major bummer, of course. If you’d add a versatile power forward — say, someone like Pau Gasol — you’d have a championship-level team on your hands.

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