Lakers’ Dwight Howard preaches patience
When the Lakers were done throwing rocks at the backboard Tuesday night, there were so many questions to answer.
Then the biggest of all shoved its way through the crowded chaos of a foundering offense, Pau Gasol’s continued backspin and Steve Nash’s never-ending leg injury.
What does Dwight Howard think of all this? The more the Lakers lose, the more likely he’s a one-year rental.
He didn’t come here to take seven shots a game (Memphis last week) or four shots a game (Sacramento, also last week). It has taken him the last two games to get 21 shots, or roughly the same number of attempts Kobe Bryant gets in three quarters these days.
Howard also didn’t leave behind the smoldering ruins of the Orlando Magic to be an also-ran in a conference that seemingly threw an intentional walk to the Lakers after Oklahoma City dumped James Harden a few days before the season began.
Yet, Howard hasn’t been a focus of the Lakers’ offense the last four games, three of which have been, predictably, losses.
He’s posting up 10 feet from the basket (not his typical spot) and he’s forcing up shots because he doesn’t know when he’ll see the ball again.
Howard becomes a free agent July 1, when he can sign a five-year, $117.9-million contract with the Lakers as opposed to a four-year, $87.6 million deal with another team.
It makes more financial sense for him to stay with the Lakers, though Brooklyn and Dallas are out there with money to spend next summer. Remember, the Nets were his first choice last summer.
For now, Howard is advocating patience. Five times in a three-minute interview Tuesday he said it was important for the team to stay strong, not get down, stay positive, etc.
“Things will start falling for us. We’ll get in a rhythm, we’ll get in a groove,” he said. “But we can’t allow this time that we’re going through right now to bring us down.”
The one thing he didn’t want to delve into was his free-throw shooting.
Lakers assistant coaches claim he makes at least 75% of them in practice. Howard claims it’s higher. It hasn’t translated to games.
“When we get up there in practice, nobody misses. So we’ve got to find a way to take that from practice to the games,” he said.
He was further pressed by reporters after making only three of 12 from the line in the Lakers’ 79-77 home loss Tuesday to Indiana. Howard’s at 47.8% accuracy through 15 games, well below his career average of 58.5%.
“I don’t want to hear about it,” Howard said politely. “That’s my problem, thinking too much at the line. In practice I rarely miss, I shoot 80%.”
Free throws aren’t the only place his numbers are declining. His points are down from 20.6 last season to 17.9, and his shots have dropped from 13.4 last season to 10.9 with the Lakers.
There’s still time for a reversal. Lakers fans would welcome it. So would Howard.
Blake still sidelined
The Lakers did not practice Wednesday, but the team said backup point guard Steve Blake would be out at least two more weeks because an MRI exam showed his strained abdominal muscle has not healed. He has missed eight games because of the injury.
Nash is out until at least next week because of a small fracture in his leg that has cost him 13 games.
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