Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard's shoulder injury kept him from playing in Brooklyn's Barclays Center. / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK - There was a time when Brooklyn Nets employees and fans alike envisioned Dwight Howard making his Barclays Center debut in a black-and-white uniform, but that now seems like a distant memory.
Because of Howard's shoulder injury, Nets fans didn't even get to see him in Gold and Purple on Tuesday. The injury cost him his third consecutive game and likely his only chance to play at Barclays Center this season.
Howard's Los Angeles Lakers won 92-83, though new starting center Pau Gasol went down with a foot injury. He will have an MRI exam Wednesday in Boston.
Howard didn't say much at Tuesday's shootaround. He hoped for another win, but when asked if he could play with the injury, the soon-to-be free agent said, "This is my career."
"I have no idea," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said Tuesday when asked if Howard would return by the end of the road trip. "I would think, but I do not know. It just depends on how bad, when the pain goes away."
Both teams obviously wanted Howard before the season started, but if you expected either the Lakers or Nets to lament over his absence on Tuesday, you haven't been paying attention.
In the months since the Nets' failed second attempt to acquire Howard (they had also tried and failed at last year's trade deadline), Brook Lopez has turned into one of the top players at the position. He currently leads all centers in scoring at just less than 19 points per game and was recently selected to his first All-Star game.
As point guard Deron Williams said on Sunday, missing out on Howard is not a "woulda, coulda, shoulda scenario."
Meanwhile, the Lakers - who acquired Howard from the Orlando Magic in the offseason - won five of six heading into Tuesday (the final two of which were without Howard) as the offense seemed to take on a new, unselfish identity.
"You play the same way," D'Antoni said. "We just want to try and keep (opponents) out of the lane a little bit better because we don't have that guy at the rim to clog it up."
In truth, the Lakers offense began to morph into something new in late January, but Howard's absence hasn't done anything to slow down that transitio. If anything, having Pau Gasol starting at center has allowed Kobe Bryant to be more of a facilitator because the 7-footer possesses is a different player than the one-dimensional Howard.
"He's very versatile," shooting guard Jodie Meeks told USA TODAY Sports about Gasol. "He's a great passer. He's a great player who's playing well."
Gasol scored 45 points on 18 of 33 shooting in the first two games Howard missed.
Bryant is averaging 9.4 assists in his past five games and the offense accumulated 209 combined points in road wins vs. the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves.
"It's just our ball movement has been better and Kobe kind of led that from about six games ago or seven," D'Antoni said. "Everybody kind of picked up on that and from there our defensive energy kind of picked up."
And while Meeks admitted that the Lakers miss Howard's passing in the post, he said he hasn't noticed any tangible effect in the spacing of D'Antoni's offense. In other words, Gasol's presence hasn't forced defenses to react any differently.
"I think we have so many great players on this team, there's spacing anyway," Meeks said.
Alex Raskin writes for HoopsWorld.com.
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Read the original story: Dwight Howard on playing hurt: 'This is my career'