Dwight Howard to return against Celtics

The Vertical
Yahoo! Sports

BOSTON – As pressure within and outside the Los Angeles Lakers has grown with the injury to Pau Gasol, All-Star center Dwight Howard plans to return to the lineup against the Boston Celtics on Thursday night, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

With Gasol out with a partial tear of his plantar fascia and the Lakers fighting to climb back into the Western Conference playoff race, Kobe Bryant has made public proclamations suggesting Howard needs to manage the pain and return to the floor. Others in the organization and locker room have privately been saying the same things, sources said.

Howard has missed the past three games, including consecutive Lakers victories over Detroit and Brooklyn, with soreness in his right shoulder from a torn labrum. As a free agent this summer, Howard is eligible for a five-year, $108 million contract extension with the Lakers and doesn't want to jeopardize his long-term health and value.

[Related: With Pau Gasol injured, will Dwight Howard step up?]

At the Lakers' shootaround on Thursday, Howard told reporters that he wants to play, but, "…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."

At 23-26, the Lakers are 10th in the Western Conference, three games behind Houston for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Lakers are 3-1 on a current seven-game road trip.

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