Lakers star Dwight Howard won't play tonight against the Wolves in that unusual 8:30 p.m. tip on ESPN because of a torn labrum in his shoulder, which means Pau Gasol moves into the starting lineup at center against Nikola Pekovic instead.
And that means for a least a night the Why-Isn't-Pau-Starting? conversation quiets down.
"That's one story you guys won't have to write," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters after shootaround this afternoon. "You all might have to work a little bit."
D'Antoni has struggle with finding time and space for both Howard and Gasol together this season, which led Ricky Rubio to say that if the Lakers don't want his friend and Spanish national teammate, he'll take him.
"When he gets a team he can coach, he can make that decision," D'Antoni said. "But c'mon..."
Kobe Bryant, btw, says the Lakers will gladly take Kevin Love if folks in Minnesota still think the Wolves are better off without him -- a notion Bryant termed "idiotic" -- but says his team is keeping Gasol.
"We want him," Bryant said. "It's just unfortunate that he's always a subject of trade rumors and speculation. We know what we've got. We haven't used him to his full potential, everybody knows that. That's something we're trying to figure out. That's something we'll have to do a much better job at if we want to reach our ultimate potential."
Howard is returning to L.A. today to have one of those platelet-rich plasma procedures done there and is expected to re-join the team later in this seven-game Grammys trip that kicked off in Phoenix Wednesday night.
A couple other things today:
* The NBA today suspended Clippers forward Matt Barnes for tonight's game at Toronto for striking Wolves center Greg Stiemsma in the throat/neck during Wednesday's game at Target Center.
* Tonight is the Lakers' first visit to Target Center since that March night a year ago when Ricky Rubio tore his ACL while trying to stop Bryant late in a game.
Somebody asked Rubio after shootaround today if he has any trepidation about facing the Lakers again because of that night, "No, that's long time ago. I don't want to think about, I don't think about it. That's the past."
Rubio went to block Bryant's path with 16 seconds left in a close game and planted it left leg, flexing the knee in an odd way while in the same sequence appeared to bang knees with Bryant.
"I just remember him going down and turning around and him being on the floor," Bryant said. "I don't think anybody really realized the extent of the injury, but it became concerning when he couldn't get up. It's always the ones that don't seem to be like much are the ones that are really (serious)...I don't remember touching him."