All-Star run in shows how off Howard has become

Scott Halleran/Getty Images/ZimbioYou know your season is going pretty bad when your coach is yelling at you during the All-Star Game.

After all, the weekend is supposed to be a time to relax and kick back a little bit. Yes, there are those required media appearances and the game itself, but that is supposed to be low stress and a good time. The perfect environment for the happy-go-lucky Dwight Howard.

In 2012, All-Star Weekend was Howard's weekend in his home city of Orlando. He hosted a gigantic bash inside an airplane hangar that was the party of the weekend. He was soaking in the love and adoration from his home city (at the moment) and the turmoil of the trade deadline was gone.

A year changes a lot of things. Howard was an All Star again, but his back and shoulder injuries have sapped much of his mastery and his Lakers team is in complete turmoil sitting outside the Playoff picture in the Western Conference.

If any player needed an All-Star break, it was Howard. Just to get away from everything and be himself again.

That may not have happened. Not with Bryant glaring from across the locker room and apparently the exhibition team's coach cursing him out. Gregg Popovich can be a cantankerous personality, but even he had to take a step back and unleash his legendary wit.

Not the case with Howard. It has been that kind of no-good year for Howard.

Bob Donnan/USA Today/Rant Sports

Stephen A. Smith was on Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio on Monday following the All-Star festivities and reported that Popovich was not too pleased with Howard for fraternizing with the celebrities courtside instead of paying attention in a huddle while Popovich was drawing up a play for him. It apparently got pretty testy with some colorful language getting dropped in there (h/t Project Spurs):

Let me tell you something right now, Coach Gregg Popovich dropped a few F-Bombs in Dwight Howard's direction during All-Star Break. Now why is that guys? Because, during a timeout, Gregg Popovich drew up a play according to my sources for Dwight Howard in the game. Except, when it was time to run the play, Dwight Howard was not in the game, wasn't paying attention, was on the bench in his warmups chillin out socializing with folks, and Gregg Popovich almost went ballistic and basically was cussing at him according to numerous people that I spoke to.

Somehow I doubt that means Howard will sign with the Spurs when he hits free agency this summer.

But you add this to reports that Howard was mocking Kobe Bryant — testing the "Black Mamba" — in the locker room in the way that he tends to mock teammates and coaches. That kind of attitude has not meshed well with the Lakers this year. Arguably, though, it is how Howard needs to be so he can be himself and play at a high level.

Of course, Howard was not allowed to do that in All-Star Weekend. He gave an awkward interview where he tried to be funny with Craig Sager in the second half of the All-Star Game. It did not come off comfortable and you could tell Howard is just not himself. Blake Griffin saved him by joking with Howard throughout the whole thing.

When Howard cannot even cut loose during All-Star Weekend, you know something is very wrong with him.

With the supposed break behind him, Howard now has to find himself and help right the ship for the struggling Lakers.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily