March 08, 2013
It looks like nothing more than an accessory Lakers center Dwight Howard wears underneath his jersey.
But Howard has sported a black protective undershirt for the past 11 games and likely will do so tonight when the Lakers (31-31) host the Toronto Raptors (24-38) at Staples Center for more practical reasons.
Howard said Posture Shirt, manufactured by Santa Ana-based company Alignmed, has played a large part in ensuring his surgically repaired back and aggravated labrum in his right shoulder heal properly.
"The Posture Shirt helps my back and keeps everything aligned," he said. "It helps my shoulders with that, too."
Bill Schultz, who invented the shirt as the CEO of Alignmed, said in a phone interview with this newspaper the elastic bands running underneath the shirt keep Howard's scapula and spine lined up over his hips. That helps Howard maintain muscle balance and improve his range of motion. Schultz said the shirt also balances Howard's muscle and shoulder joints together, making it easier for him to absorb contact.
"When Howard moves, those elastic bands move with him," Schultz said. "That ends up stretching and massaging the muscle."
Howard took up Alignmed's offer to try on the shirt in hopes the device would prevent shoulder injuries. The Lakers then received NBA approval for Howard to wear the shirt because it's considered a medical device and not a commercial product.
"I wore the shirt a couple of times when I had some stingers," Howard said. "But I was able to play through it. The shirt was doing its job. It keeps everything in line.
"There's nothing I can do about my back right now except to let it heal. That's the only thing I can do."
For the first time since tearing the plantar fascia of his right foot four weeks ago, forward Pau Gasol received medical clearance Thursday to participate in running drills.
"Discomfort was minimal," Gasol said on Twitcam. ""Very encouraging."
He traveled with the Lakers' on their two-game trip to Oklahoma City (Tuesday) and New Orleans (Wednesday) and used that time performing exercises with strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco that test his gluteal and neuro muscles.
Gasol missed the past 13 games and is expected to remain sidelined for another two to four weeks.
Howard has picked up at least four fouls in 11 of the past 13 games. That's often prompted coach Mike D'Antoni to take Howard out for significant stretches early in games.
"I just got to continue to play through it," Howard said. "I try to stay aggressive and also be smart."
In the Lakers' 108-102 win Thursday over the New Orleans Hornets, Howard sat out the final 10:40 of the second quarter after picking up his fourth foul.
But he returned in the second half and played a large part in holding New Orleans to nine fourth-quarter points, including a key block on Robin Lopez's layup attempt with 27 seconds remaining. Howard also avoided collecting any more fouls.
"I want to block all the shots and make sure I erase everything in the paint," Howard said. "To do it with fouls is not easy."
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