Whether you are a Laker Nation die-hard or a disgruntled Orlando Magic fan, you are going to have an opinion of the Dwight Howard signing over the summer. The three time Defensive Player of the Year recipient and seven time All-Star was brought to Los Angeles to propel an aging Laker roster over the wall they have hit the previous two post seasons. With Howards presence in the paint, multiple championships seemed to be in reach and future of the franchise looked bright as the Lakers had a superstar who would carry the torch into the eventual post Kobe era.
Sounds good, right?
Young into his Laker career, fans and media have labeled Howard a disappointment both on and off the court. Well get over it, put it behind you, because the plan is he’s here to stay. Coming off significant back surgery, Howard returned to action months before the suggested time frame laid out by doctors. You could not have expected Howard to come back 100% and in the same form as most remember in Orlando. Give the man some credit, he has played through pain, criticism, and the pressure of playing alongside the greatest player of this era, The Black Mamba.
Yet with all this going on, Howard has averaged 16.3 ppg, leading the Lakers in field goal percentage, blocks and rebounds. Although below his averages, Howard has had to learn two different offenses that are clearly not using his skill sets to its maximum potential. Especially Coach D’Antoni’s system, which gives the green light to any perimeter shooter while ignoring the significance of post play.
Think back to January 15, 2013. Just a regular day for some, but for the Laker Nation it was Dwight Howard’s coming out party. Howard looked superb, lighting up the Milwaukee Bucks for 31 points, going 14-18 from the field, with 16 rebounds and 4 blocks. For once this season, eagerly waiting Laker fans finally witnessed the pure dominance of Howard. It was a spectacle to see at both ends of the floor and the start of what was going to be a bright season, or so Laker fans thought…
In the next 13 games, Howard’s play proved to be the same old story. Posting a 5-8 record, and amongst never ending drama, Howard and the Lakers limped into the All-Star break once again searching for answers. One think was clear; Howard was not involved on offense. Multiple sources were the cause of this problem, but in reality, there were just not enough shots to go around.
Take a look into the numbers:
Over this 13 game span, Howard averaged 12.2 ppg, shooting 55% from the field on only 8.3 FGA. Meanwhile Metta World Peace (34% shooting, 11.2 ppg, 12.1 FGA) and the newly emerged Earl Clark (45% shooting, 10.8 ppg, 9.9 FGA) were both culprits of shooting more and averaging less. This is boggling to the basketball mind. Why have your less productive players shoot more than your bread and butter?
Kobe and Howard should lay the foundation for the offense, then let Nash and company feast on the scraps. Not to mention, a solid post game will open up even more of those beloved perimeter shots. Yeah you say D’Antoni’s offense does not run this way, but hell, at least try to implement it a few games.
With 24 games remaining in the regular season, the only way the Lakers will be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy is if D’Antoni’s system is critiqued in order to incorporate more post play/players. As the Lakers attempt to chip away at the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, you can see strides are being taken in the right direction, but will it be enough?
As much as Laker fans love a good ol’ fashioned gun show, we know Kobe and company shooting their way through the playoffs will only get the Lakers so far. The Lakers have the ingredients to make their presence felt come post season, and with a playoff endorsement, you are crazy to count them out just yet. Have faith in the big man Laker Nation, because whether you hate or love the guy, the Lakers recipe for success lies on the shoulders of Dwight Howard.