As the nation reels from the coronavirus pandemic, Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard is mourning the loss of Melissa Rios, the mother of his 6-year-old son, David, he told reporters Friday.

Rios, 31, died of an epileptic seizure on March 27 at her home in Calabasas, California.

“I’ve had some things happen in my personal life that has been difficult to really handle,” Howard said on a video conference call. “My son’s mom, she had passed away a month and a half ago and it’s extremely difficult for me to try to understand how to talk to my son, who’s 6 years old, just about the whole situation.”

David is with Howard in Georgia, where he has been riding out the NBA hiatus on his 23-acre property. Howard was planning to invite Rios — a real estate agent and epilepsy advocate — to spend time with him and their son in Georgia when he found out she had died.

Howard, 34, said spending time with David and his four other children has given him some comfort during an uneasy time.

“Every moment counts,” Howard said. “Be grateful for every situation that you have, just be grateful for life. I think we also take for granted the little things and just spending time with people and stuff like that. And you know after having all these situations, it’s like, reconfirming to me just stay in the moment. Always be grateful. Always be grateful for everything you have, every little thing that happens.”

Howard said he attended Rios’ funeral with their son in Reno, Nevada. Many funeral arrangements have been limited or canceled altogether because of coronavirus concerns, and Rios, who went by Mimi, was honored with social distancing measures in place for those who attended.

“There was no way I could not be there for my son, and even for her family,” Howard said. “I definitely would’ve felt like that would’ve been bad. She deserves and he would deserve better if I didn’t do that that.”

Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (39) questions a call during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. The Pacers defeated the Lakers 105-102. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

While the 16-year veteran said he was eager for the NBA season to resume and to continue the pursuit of the first championship of his decorated career, he realizes that the league being shut down has allowed him to be available for his family.

“It’s bittersweet because I do want to play basketball, but my son right now needs me more than anything,” Howard said.

More than two months have passed since the Lakers’ last game on March 10. They are inching toward a return to normalcy by opening up their practice facility Saturday for voluntary, socially distanced workouts in accordance with NBA protocols, after working closely with city, county and state officials to get the go-ahead, sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

A “handful” of Lakers players are expected at the facility in El Segundo, California, on Saturday, sources told ESPN, but Howard will not be among them. He plans to stay in Georgia “until everything’s cleared up” and then will book a commercial flight back to L.A. to rejoin his team.

SHENZHEN, CHINA – OCTOBER 12: #39 Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the match against the Brooklyn Nets during a preseason game as part of 2019 NBA Global Games China at Shenzhen Universiade Center on October 12, 2019 in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

In the meantime, he is staying fit by boxing, working out at his home (which has a pool, a gym and a basketball court) and adopting a daily routine called the “One Punch Man” workout, based on an anime character.

“It’s 100 pushups, 100 situps, 100 squats and [running] 2 miles,” Howard said. “So it’s a real simple workout, but it’s more so for discipline and more so doing this every morning is like showing gratitude to your body and the universe and God for blessing for another day. So it’s kind of more so like an awakening.”

Howard says he is looking forward to putting that training to use once he’s back playing games with his teammates.

“I think everybody’s anxious just to get back playing,” Howard said. “I think we’ve all felt like this was our season and this was our time. So it’s more so everybody’s just anxious to play, it’s like we’ve been sitting down waiting to get back out there and win, so it’s been pretty tough.”



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