Dwight Howard and the Defense the Lakers Need

Darius Soriano —  November 16, 2012

In Mike D’Atnoni’s introductory press conference he wowed media and fans alike with his calm confidence, humor, and bold proclamations about what the Lakers can be on the offensive side of the ball. He expressed a willingness, no a desire, to let his players be the decision makers on the floor and allow their talent to shine through.

More important than what D’Atnoni said about the Lakers’ offense was his take on their defense. He noted that he has the type of defensive talent for the Lakers to a be “a bear” on that side of the ball and mentioned several times that in the period his players get up to speed on what they like to do on offense, the team will need to win games with energy and defense.

D’Antoni then laid on effusive praise for Dwight Howard and for good reason. While acknowledging that Howard is still not 100%, he expressed the need for Howard to carry the team on the defensive side of the ball in the short and the long term. This  isn’t a foreign concept as it’s what we’ve all believed to be true as well. Howard’s pedigree on that side of the ball is well known and it’s impact there that had fans most excited about him becoming a Laker.

Through the first 8 games to the season, the Lakers haven’t gotten that guy. At least not consistently. He’s had his moments to be sure, but his timing and freakish athleticism haven’t come all the way back on an every play basis just yet. But, we may just be seeing a breakthrough. In the San Antonio game, Howard made one play that stood out to me as maybe his best defensive sequence of the season:

On this play, Howard did everything you’d want a big man to do. He hedged on the pick and roll to prevent dribble penetration. He then recovered to his man to contest what would have been a 15 foot jumper. After his man faked the shot and put the ball on the ground, Howard slid with him and then challenged the shot to force a miss. Then, as the ball caromed off the rim, he quickly leapt again to secure the rebound.

Dwight may not be all the way back but it’s plays like this that show me he’s getting closer. The angles, recovery, the challenge, and the second jump were all there.

Moving forward if Dwight can make these plays consistently, he’s going to make his coach look like a very smart man.

Darius Soriano

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8 responses to Dwight Howard and the Defense the Lakers Need

  1. darius: great segue into lakers main focus entering this weekend’s game starting tonite against phoenix. with coach D now in tow, emphasis should be directed toward defense and who better than to highlight the anchor, dwight howard.

    Go Lakers

  2. Darius, As soon as you referenced the sequence you highlighted, I knew which one you were referring to–and I had the same take on it. “Dwight Flight is on his way back!” (That’s what my 14 year old son said when we watched it.)

  3. Mike D was always quick with one liners and his “aw shucks” personality. That plays well for the press – and owners who don’t think things through – but the bottom line is that there was always a soft d when it came to defense. So I’m anxious to see what kind of plan someone comes up with, and if the coaches can convince the players to follow it. The lakers have the talent to win 85% of their games, but if the coaches and players can’t figure out a way to win the crucial 15% it don’t mean squat. Let’s hope Mike D can redeem his reputation and help the Lakers get to the finals.

  4. Let’s not minimize the role that a slow and ineffective offense had on this team’s defensive effort. There has been a lot of consternation over the fact that a “defensive guru” like Mike Brown couldn’t produce a better defensive team, but I think this was largely the result of Brown’s ineptitude on offense. When players aren’t getting shots, they don’t play with as much energy; and when they don’t play with as much energy, they tend to get exposed on the defensive end.

    Look at the Knicks. Aside from Chandler, there is nobody on that team with a reputation for defensive prowess, but right now they are playing very good D. Last night, JR Smith (of all people) was flying around on defense, helping out and blocking shots. That’s what happens when things are clicking on offense and guys feel good about themselves. I’d expect a Laker team with several good to great inidividual defenders to be much more inspired on the other end of the floor if the new offensive system works as advertised.

  5. D’antoni ‘ s reputation doesn’t need redeeming, people need to actually look at his record and stats and put things in proper context. For example d’antoni took on a rebuilding job in new york with Donnie Walsh – with both of them trying to undo all the mistakes and bad contracts that isiah Thomas had brought in. D’antoni knew it was a rebuild and was up for the challenge and was willing to take the losses because they were loading up for LeBron. Instead, when that didn’t happen – instead of being sensible – James Dolan forced Walsh to trade for Carmelo and completely changed a team that d’antoni was comfortable with (oh and his ny team that year was a top ten defense btw despite having Amare). If you throw out those first two years with NY, then d’antoni ‘s winning percentage is not too far off of Pj’s who only ever coached teams that he thought could win. There is lots of reasons to be excited for this hire – Phil is gone – its done – let’s move on.

  6. What worries me is transition defense. All the offensive movement and flow needs to have balance so that there are defenders getting back in transition, a trouble area with this team already.

  7. Jjerke,
    I don’t disagree with your assessment of D’Antoni. I’ve written as much here. Where I will disagree is on your assessment of Phil only wanting to coach teams he knows can win. He came back to the Lakers for his second stint when the team had just come off a lottery season and didn’t have Shaq. That team prominently featured Kwame Brown and Smush Parker and several other replacement level players. I don’t want to make this too much of a sticking point, but since you obviously want to set the record straight on D’Antoni, doing the same for Phil is probably needed.

  8. Lol sorry Darius – didn’t realize how snarky my past post sounded regarding pj (typing on a bb playbook doesn’t work for rereading a whole post prior to posting:P). I’m not a d’antoni apologist – he has his faults to be sure, just the constant repetition of ill formed complaints against him has gotten annoying – and I would have come to the same defense of any hire the Lakers had made. My remark was ill worded and more meant that PJ has always had the 1 or 1a player in the league on his team to work with but I digress. But yes he did have to suffer thru the kwame/smush year – and d’antoni basically benched Smush for the season that he was in phoenix so he knows Phils pain having to deal with him.