"It's like a nightmare, like a bad dream," Howard said of the Lakers' 2012-13 season. "We couldn't wake up out of it."
San Antonio defeated L.A. 103-82 to complete the Western Conference first-round series sweep, but Howard was already in the locker room, ejected shortly after halftime after drawing two technical fouls for disputes with the officials. The Lakers played Game 4 without Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks due to a variety of injuries.
As Howard exited the court, he turned around and offered some words in the direction of Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, although he told reporters afterward he didn't remember what he did.
"Just frustration, there's nothing we can do about it," he said. "It's over with now. I've got to do a better job keeping my cool. It's very tough when you're out there playing. It's an emotional game, you don't want to lose."
With a little less than a minute remaining in the first quarter and the Spurs leading 23-16, Howard was surrounded and fouled by a number of San Antonio players as he gathered an offensive rebound. Howard responded by swinging his right elbow toward Cory Joseph and was assessed his first technical foul. The elbow, which didn't connect with any force, led to an exchange of words with DeJuan Blair.
Then, with 9:51 remaining in the third quarter and San Antonio leading 55-34, Howard and Aron Baynes were jockeyed for position in the paint. When the entanglement didn't lead to a defensive foul on the Spurs center, Howard turned and expressed his dissatisfaction to the baseline referee, who promptly assessed Howard's second technical foul of the game, which required the automatic ejection. Howard departed Game 4 with seven points (on two-for-two shooting) and eight rebounds in 21 minutes.
After beginning the season with enormous expectations, the Lakers finished 45-37, earning the No. 7 seed in the West. Their sweep at the hands of the Spurs marked the first time the Lakers have not advanced in the postseason since 2007.
"It was a rocky year," Howard said. "A lot of things happened that I didn't have any control over." Howard, acquired by the Lakers in a blockbuster trade last summer, averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in his first season with the team. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and said he plans to "step away for a few weeks" before he begins formulating his plans for the future.