From Sam Amick, USA Today Sports: Dwight Howard was sitting down on Friday, which is good considering the topics at hand. His surgically-repaired back that still isn’t right yet. The Lakers’ defense that’s in need of a heart transplant. The reputation that he’s still trying to repair after the tumultuous path he took to get here. It made all sorts of sense that Howard stayed seated for this weighty discussion.While Steve Nash would make his return the following night, the two-time MVP point guard bringing his offensive wizardry back to the Lakers in a 118-115 overtime win at Golden State that was the fourth in a row for the 13-14 squad, Howard’s focus both then and now is on the other end.Howard is well aware that the Lakers’ demise comes with a ripple effect, his name as the best defender in the game dishonored a little more with every hapless defensive effort. For all the silliness that never stops with Howard, he has no shortage of pride. What he doesn’t have and so badly needs, however, is the physical capability to play like the dominant force he’s been for most of eight seasons. Howard is progressing quickly these days, but he said he’s still feeling the effects of the April surgery to repair a herniated disk. In other words, Dwight Howard still isn’t Dwight Howard just yet.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: Steve Nash sat on the bench and he wondered. He’d been rehabbing his left leg for seven weeks after fracturing his fibula in just the second game of the Los Angeles Lakers’ season. He had to watch from the sidelines as his team cycled through three head coaches and fell lower and lower in the standings. Now here he was, back in his No. 10 jersey, sweat dripping from his freshly coifed hair as he looked at the scoreboard only to see his Lakers trailing the Golden State Warriors by 13 heading into the fourth quarter on Saturday. He came back for this? Was it going to be just another road loss in a season that had already seen L.A. drop eight of its first 12 games away from Staples Center? Or did he and his teammates have something in them yet to be discovered? The way they ended up going was the way many envisioned the Lakers setting out this season when Nash and Dwight Howard and Co. came together in purple and gold this summer.
From Ben Bolch, LA Times: Kobe Bryant didn’t hide his disdain when a television reporter asked him to read a few lines from a Christmas poem for an on-air spot to be used later. ”Are you serious?” the Lakers guard said last week as he reviewed the script inside his team’s practice facility. He eventually complied with a perfunctory performance. Teammate Dwight Howard was far more amenable to the same request, the center dramatically repeating the words and putting his own colorful spin on a classic tale.”Happy Christmas to all,” Howard said, breaking out a wide smile, “and to all a good Dwight!” It’s Christmastime again in the NBA, meaning that scores of players are splitting into ho-ho-ho and bah-humbug factions over more than just potentially irksome promotional demands.
From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: Saturday night marked the return of Steve Nash for the Los Angeles Lakers, just one game after Pau Gasol made his return. In a thriller of a game, the Lakers prevailed 118-115, in overtime. Things weren’t always smooth or easy for L.A., but they once again came back from behind in a game they spent being outplayed. In overtime, the Lakers looked to using the key for their offense, Steve Nash, and it worked like a charm. While not every play converted into points the sets they ran created great opportunities for the Lakers, and with a little more time and familiarity, show the promise of how deadly the offense can be in the half court as a team. We’ll be breaking down a handful of plays from overtime, and then a bonus addition of an inbounds play the Lakers ran twice with two very different outcomes (the first time they ran it it turned into an easy dunk for Kobe Bryant. The second time? An even more potent result).
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The way you view your mortality will be the same way you live your life. Romantic or matter-of-fact, defiant or defeatist, how you deal with the gifts and challenges you encounter every day will color your glasses when you start pondering the grimmest of realities. Athletes have to cope with these ideas, in a far less morbid sense, when their playing careers begin to run out. The Lakers, with guards Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash playing their 17th NBA seasons and coming together to try and win now, are the most curious case in this regard. While Bryant has become a legend by stiff-arming any and all adversity, few have analyzed and executed their way to excellence better than Nash, 38. He has come to a wonderful peace and perspective about the past seven-plus weeks healing a tricky leg fracture and all the massive expectations on him to save the Lakers now and re-establish the possibility of his own first NBA title. Basketball immortality has come to these two guys who aren’t that much bigger than the average guy. How? Just look at the masterful way they have motivated themselves – and now faced with basketball mortality, Bryant and Nash are again keeping their eyes steady and their jaws strong. Which brings us to the other Lakers superstar, one who has been grappling with more mortal thoughts than most understand: Dwight Howard.
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