For the Lakers to have a shot, Dwight Howard has to shoot more
MIAMI — The same guy who recently went around the locker room toting a stat sheet no longer wants to talk about it.
It’s time to say it for him: Dwight Howard needs to be a bigger part of the Lakers’ offense.
Learn how to use the pick and roll with the point guard most adept at running it in NBA history.
Demand the ball long before your teammates commit a flurry of fourth-quarter turnovers forcing passes into the post.
Step up and shoot, shoot, shoot with Pau Gasol possibly sidelined for the rest of the regular season.
Otherwise, the Lakers are paying $19.5 million for a center who couldn’t even help them outrebound the smallish Miami Heat during a 107-97 defeat Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Howard was such a minion on offense that he took two fewer shots than Metta World Peace and eight fewer than Earl Clark, the forward who used to hoist as many shots in a month as Howard would in a game.
Howard scored 15 points on six-for-nine shooting to go with nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks. And that was actually an improvement considering he had scored in single figures in six of his previous nine games, averaging only 10.4 points and 7.7 shots per game over that stretch.
Pretty meager stats for someone who has averaged 18.3 points in his career and should be, at the very least, the No. 2 option on most nights.
“I mean, we could obviously get more,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “He’s had games where he’s had 25 points and 17 rebounds and so forth and you’d like to see that more consistently.”
As Howard’s production has dwindled, so have the postgame remarks of a once-chatty player.
Reporter: “Are you getting as many shots as you would like right now?”
Howard: “I don’t want to talk about that.”
Reporter: “Are you happy with your place in the offense?”
Howard: “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Maybe it’s smart to stay mum given the limited offensive arsenal he unveiled Sunday. Howard’s baskets came on two putback dunks, two jump hooks, a dunk off a pass from Steve Nash and a driving layup.
Are the Lakers getting enough out of Howard?
“Trying to,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Trying to do the best we can do.”
Of course, doing more is every bit as much on Howard as it is on his teammates to get him the ball. One of the most physically imposing players in the game needs to refine his post moves and develop better chemistry with Nash.
It was widely believed before the season that Howard and Nash would make a formidable pick-and-roll duo.
On Sunday, they couldn’t even execute a simple bounce pass.
Nash directed a pass toward Howard in the third quarter and Howard neglected to move toward the ball, leading to a turnover and a testy exchange between the two.
Howard also failed the toughness test, having the ball stripped by LeBron James early in the fourth quarter while spinning toward the basket.
Frankly, the Lakers appeared more formidable on offense last year with Andrew Bynum than they do with his replacement.
That’s not to say they were dumb to trade for Howard or that he won’t eventually resemble the two-way force he’s been for most of his career as he continues to round into form from back surgery.
It’s just that the Lakers, struggling merely to get to .500 more than halfway through the season, can’t wait much longer.
Howard is averaging 16.2 points, on pace for his lowest output since the 2005-06 season.
More troubling, he is averaging 11.7 rebounds, on track for his lowest figure since he was a rookie eight years ago, and the Lakers are giving up an average of more than 100 points per game with a big man who no longer resembles the league’s top defender.
“I have all the confidence in the world that eventually he’ll get back to himself,” Lakers forward Antawn Jamison said. “We’re not going to go anywhere without him being Dwight.”
Dwight being Dwight means more than playing defense and rebounding.
Maybe it’s time for him to take another look at the stat sheet.
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