Dwight Howard took an early exit on Sunday in the final chapter of the Los Angeles Lakers season. With 9:51 remaining in the third quarter of Game 4 against the San Antonio Spurs, Howard was ejected following his second technical foul. As Howard slowly walked off the floor at Staples Center, he slapped his teammates' hands, offered some words as he walked by general manager Mitch Kupchak and headed to the locker room in perhaps his last moments in a Laker uniform. "It's like a nightmare," Howard said after Los Angeles suffered a 103-82 defeat that swept it out of Round 1 of the playoffs. "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." When asked if the last part of that statement reflected optimism toward returning, Howard said: "You're reading too much into it." Howard will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Lakers can pay him more than anyone else with a five-year, maximum $117.9 million contract. By departing to the likes of the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks or Dallas Mavericks, which have the salary cap space, Howard would take a pay cut with a four-year, $87.6 million max deal. Howard is just 27 years old and could potentially make up a lost $30 million of his contract down the road. But who walks away from $30 million, especially someone still recovering from major back surgery? "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."