This brought technical No. 1 for Howard on Sunday. (Jeff Gross / Getty Images)

If Sunday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs was Dwight Howard’s last with the Los Angeles Lakers, this was an ugly way to go out.

With a little less than 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Howard, who’d already been whistled for one technical for throwing an elbow, lost his cool and drew his second. He was ejected from the Lakers’ 21-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs and, as he headed to the locker room, he slapped his teammates’ hands and threw a few choice words over his right should as he passed General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent when the season ends, was as done as the Lakers, who fell 103-82 to the Spurs and were swept in their first-round playoff series. He had only seven points and eight rebounds, hardly the stuff expected of a leader.

Kobe Bryant was left to whisper to Pau Gasol on the Lakers’ bench. (Jeff Gross / Getty Images)

“It’s like a nightmare,” said. “It’s like a bad dream and we couldn’t wake up out of it. That’s what it felt like. It seemed like nothing could go right, right from the start, injuries and all that stuff. We get an opportunity to get some rest for guys who are injured. A chance to rehab and think about what we can all do to better ourselves.”

Asked if that meant he hopes to return to the Lakers, Howard replied: “You’re reading too much into it.”

What will Howard do? Other teams can’t afford him. But can the Lakers, after the way he came up small after Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles? Howard is in no rush to decide.

“I’m going to step away from everything for a couple of weeks,” Howard said. “I’m going to clear my head before I do or talk about anything as far as next season. I think I deserve that and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Johnson added on Twitter that “I’m sooooooooooo happy the season is over. With the talent on this team this could go down as one of the worst seasons in Lakers’ history!”

In a series of tweets, Howard apologized, joked and hinted about a return, writing: “Im still upset about tonights game and the way this season ended. Im mad I lost my cool. Im sorry for letting my team and our fans down when when they needed me the most. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year its that I need to be more responsible for my actions and learn to to “breathe”! (Maybe I will take up yoga and come back calmer or @charliesheen can help me with my anger management) But despite our tough season, it is an honor being a member of a team with this amazing history & the best fans in the league! I hope I get the chance to make it up to you. Thank u la.”

ESPN’s J.A. Adande pointed ouy that L.A. may well be the best spot for him. Whether that’s best for the Lakers, who have a number of issues to address, is another matter. From Adande:

The standard reaction to such a letdown would be drastic changes. You know how they do it in Lakerland. Falling short of the NBA Finals means time to start shopping for a future Hall of Famer or two. Reload and relaunch.

But have you stopped to think of what drastic change would entail this time?

It would mean using the amnesty provision to dump Kobe Bryant, the face of the franchise.

It would mean turning their back on Dwight Howard, the man they targeted to be the next face of the franchise.

It would require chopping into the salary-cap space they hope to create in 2014.

It would force them to admit they can’t get a coaching hire right unless they make the one decision a 12-year-old would make if he somehow got a general manager’s job: get Phil Jackson.

Mike D’Antoni was not, despite what the Lakers kept insisting, the right fit for this team. If he were, he would have figured out a better way to utilize Pau Gasol early on, rather than relegate him to the bench at the start and finish of games. He would have found a way to hide some of the Lakers’ deficiencies. He would have realized that Dwight Howard is not suited to run high screen-and-rolls.

Failure to win a single playoff game has never been acceptable for the Lakers.

But where to start to fix all that ails them?

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