Dwight Howard understands why the fans in Los Angeles have not fully embraced him. He knows that because he has not committed to the Lakers beyond this season, fans are hesitant to return the love. He asks them to be patient, saying that the focus right now needs to be on this year and making the playoffs, not next season. "Right now, I am committed to this team," he said. "The only thing that matters is right now. Nothing else matters beyond what we do in the next game, do for the rest of the season. There's no need for us to go back and forth and cause a circus." Howard will be a free agent after this season and could get between $25 million and $30 million if he re-signs with the Lakers, more than any other team can pay. Speculation is high that he will choose to stay in L.A. "Right now I'm here, this moment and it's the only moment that matters right now," Howard said. "You can't look to the future, that's something to worry about at the end of the season. Right now, the focus has to be on us winning games and making it to the playoffs and possibly winning a championship. "It can't be on whether or not I'm going to sign or whatever. Our focus, my focus has to be clear so I can play free and be who I am and focus on the moment." BIG CHALLENGES The Lakers face the Clippers Thursday night in their final game before the All-Star break, a game both teams hope to win before their stars head to Houston. The Lakers (25-28), face several challenges, namely stopping Chris Paul, one of the game's top point guards. Paul scored 30 points, including the team's final eight in a 107-102 victory the last time the teams met on Jan. 4. He also had 13 assists.