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Dwight Howard sees opportunity in Kobe Bryant's absence as Lakers forge new identity

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    Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol, second from left, of Spain, is congratulated by forward Metta World Peace, left, as guard Steve Blake, second from right, and guard Jodie Meeks looks on during the second half of their NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 14, 2013, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 91-86. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)The Associated Press

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    Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard points to the sky after making a free throw during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Sunday, April 14, 2013, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 91-86. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)The Associated Press

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    Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake, right, shoots as San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph defends during the second half of their NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 14, 2013, in Los Angeles. Blake scored 23 points as the Lakers won 91-86. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)The Associated Press

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    Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard shoots a free throw during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Sunday, April 14, 2013, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 91-86. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)The Associated Press

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    Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol (16), of Spain, drives toward the basket as San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner defends during the first half of their NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 14, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)The Associated Press

Although Kobe Bryant's season is over, Dwight Howard thinks the Los Angeles Lakers' fun has just begun.

The Lakers are still digesting the news they'll be without their top scorer and team leader for the rest of the season after Bryant tore his Achilles tendon last week.

The rest of Los Angeles' roster rallied for a win over powerful San Antonio on Sunday night, putting the Lakers on the brink of a playoff berth.

Howard radiated optimism afterward, seeing Bryant's absence as an opportunity "to do something special." The All-Star center still thinks the Lakers are championship contenders if they can squeak into the playoffs.

But everybody must assume part of Bryant's enormous responsibilities. Howard knows he must score more often, and Pau Gasol plans to assume more leadership.