He missed only seven games the first seven years he played for Orlando, but there have been questions about his toughness because he seemingly refused to play through pain.
"People can say what they want, but none of them are playing," Howard said. "I spent a whole summer trying to recover [from back surgery] because I wanted to play through pain and show people that I'm tough."
A happy guy, who signed on to play with a team built on the intensity of Bryant, he tried to tone down his fun-loving act.
But before the Celtics game, while not declaring definitively whether he would play, it was a dead giveaway that he would when he was joking again with everyone.
Early on, the Celtics were called for five fouls while trying to figure out a way to handle Howard. He was causing the Celtics massive problems. Kevin Garnett went to the bench with two fouls less than four minutes into the game.
So much for the Lakers highlights.
Howard played 28 minutes, hit four of eight shots including a 15-foot jumper, made one of six free throws and had nine rebounds in the 116-95 loss.
"There were a couple of times where I felt it [pain in the shoulder], but I was trying just not to think about it," he said. "I was just trying to be as strong as I can without nursing it."
So what did D'Antoni think of Howard's performance?
"Like everybody else, it wasn't good."
Howard said he had been pointing to returning for this game. But there were some who thought Kobe had pressured him into returning.
Kobe said that wasn't true.
He said ESPN sensationalized remarks he had made earlier to a Boston reporter when he said, "We don't have time for [Howard's shoulder] to heal ... we need some urgency."
Kobe said he's been sounding the "time for urgency" mantra since a loss in Cleveland and said if he wanted to pressure Howard into playing he would have no qualms about personally telling Howard. Kobe doesn't seem to be the bashful sort.
Howard didn't see the report but heard about it from the media and reminded reporters that Bryant isn't a doctor. He wasn't happy with the notion of being called out, true or not.
But whatever the impact of such media reports, and there will certainly be more, Howard's health is probably the single biggest thing that will determine the Lakers' playoff hopes.
Without it, and right now we're probably suggesting a miracle, I can hear Magic already: How 'bout those Dodgers!