Archives For Dwight Howard

In beating the Bulls, the Lakers really showed how they can manipulate very good defenses with screen actions designed to get their best players makable shots. This was especially true late in the game where the Lakers picked on Carlos Boozer on multiple consecutive possessions in order to close out the game.

Of all the plays the Lakers ran against the Bulls, two stood out to me, and not just because they were successful. Both had very good design, but both were also relative simple actions that preyed on the quick reacting Bulls’ scheme in a way that exposed their aggressive help actions.

First, was a great play the Lakers ran out of a timeout. The Lakers started the play with Nash up high with Kobe on the left side of the floor and Dwight near the top of the key:

Kobe Flare 1

Nash goes to his left hand to run a 1/2 pick and roll with Kobe. After Deng hedges on Nash, he actually gets bumped by his own man before starting to chase Kobe who has darted to the right side of the floor. Only, when Deng starts his chase, he’s met by a nice screen from Dwight Howard:

Kobe Flare 2

Dwight gets Deng in a severe trail position with his pick and Kobe is wide open by the time the ball lands in his hands. By the time he raises up to shoot, look how far Deng is away from him:

Kobe Flare 3

The Lakers haven’t run this type of flare screen action a lot this year so it’s not like it was an easy play to scout. Coming out of a timeout, D’Antoni drew up the perfect play and Kobe came through by hitting the shot, resulting in a 15 point lead that really put stress on the Bulls’ offense. Here’s the play in real time:

The second play was another screen action, this time starting out of a Nash/Dwight pick and roll. We start with a similar set up as in the play before, with Nash high, Dwight in position to set a screen for him, and Kobe on the left wing:

Dwight Screen

After coming off a Dwight screen, Nash goes hard to his left to initiate a dribble pitch/hand off with Kobe who is circling back towards him. Notice as well that Dwight is trailing Nash rather than rolling hard to hoop as he would in a normal P&R:

Nash hand off

After giving the ball to Kobe, Nash sets a screen on Deng. And, after having to navigate that screen, Deng has to fight over the top of a second screen from Dwight. That double screen action gives Kobe a lot of daylight to operate, with Joakim Noah having to step up to ensure that Kobe doesn’t get into the paint:

Double screen

This is where Kobe’s smarts come into play. When seeing Noah, Kobe flattens out his dribble and occupies the big man in order to draw him up and away from his original assignment (Dwight). With Nash keeping his spacing high on the floor, Meeks and Ron spacing on the right side, and Dwight beginning a roll to the rim, Kobe patiently accepts Noah’s defense, waits for Deng to recover and has now created a situation where he’s double teamed but still able to make a play for a teammate:

Boozer watching

The purpose of this action isn’t just to make any pass, however. Dwight rolling hard to the rim after setting the screen is the primary target. And with Carlos Boozer still standing outside the right lane line, Kobe correctly picks out Dwight for an easy dunk:

This play really was the Lakers picking on Boozer, who should have helped off Ron and taken away Dwight’s dive by standing in the paint. With Meeks and Nash the other two players on the wing, Boozer’s guarding the non-shooter on the floor and it’s his responsibility to duck in.

But the beauty of the play design is that Boozer really is stuck in no man’s land. If he does slide over to help on Dwight, he leaves a shooter open for the most efficient three point shot there is in the game. And even though he’s guarding a non-threat, the Bulls defensive scheme is one that emphasizes not giving up that corner shot. So while Boozer is at fault here, I think the play design really did a good job of opening up multiple options for a high efficient shot.

Moving forward, it looks like the Lakers really are starting to find more options on offense by adding wrinkles to their traditional actions in order to create good shots. Whether it’s a flare screen for Kobe or a staggered pick and roll action that opens up Dwight for a dunk, Coach D’Antoni is getting more creative. Furthermore, he’s doing so using his three best players and utilizing them in ways that maximize their abilities to be threats on the floor. Continuing to use these types of plays should only make the Lakers more dangerous and an even bigger pain to game plan for.

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  March 8, 2013

The glow of the Lakers’ galvanizing fourth-quarter comeback on Wednesday still lingers but the next bend lies right ahead. It’s a big night for western teams on the playoff fringe. Houston visits Golden State, Utah visits Chicago and the Lakers host Toronto.

What does this mean? Golden State has a two-game edge on Houston, possesses a solid home record and has won two in a row. Utah has a weak road record while Chicago’s coming off a couple tough losses – they’d love a win before heading west (facing the Lakers at Staples on Sunday). As for the Lakers themselves, winning is absolutely everything – currently 1.5 games out of eighth. With the right combo of wins/losses tonight, they could be just a half-game back come midnight.

It’s been a story about numbers lately, written here, there and everywhere. And as the Lakers demonstrated on Wednesday, there may well be a new wrinkle – Dwight Howard says the win brought the team closer together and for a season marked by injuries, inconsistency and conflict, the statement could be more than just words.

Arash Markazi for ESPN brings MWP’s explanation of his support for Dwight (in pure Metta-fashion).

Kevin Ding for the OCRegister brings the power of Dwight’s positive thinking.

Mark Whicker for the OCRegister conveys another plot twist for Antawn Jamison.

Drew Garrison for Silver Screen and Roll breaks down the Kobe-fueled comeback against NO.

Ben Rosales for Silver Screen and Roll examines a matter of heart in his latest Beast or Burden.

Kurt Helin for ProBasketballTalk looks at the math and says Utah should be nervous.

Mike Bresnahan for the LATimes, on the Lakers hope for complimentary figures.

Bill Plaschke for the LATimes on the right decision in keeping Kobe over Shaq.

For Sheridan Hoops, the Kamenetzky Brothers offer their Cali report – heading down the stretch.

Mark Medina for Inside the Lakers explains Dwight’s Posture Shirt.

Elizabeth Benson at Lakers Nation brings video of Kobe on Kimmel.

Max Piner at Lakers Nation has the pregame report for the Lakers vs. Raptors.

***

With just twenty games left in what was once termed a cakewalk season, the Lakers have a shot – to make the playoffs. This is where we find ourselves. Back at Staples, facing a team with a 9 & 22 road record on a night when the western conference schedule is as favorable as could be for a giant step forward. For Dwight Howard, another chance for redemption in front of a home crowd that wants to believe. For Steve Nash, he’ll be facing the team that most people assumed he would sign with during the off-season. It has been a period of willing reinvention for the 39 year-old guard. And for Kobe Bryant, there are no simple ways to convey what he means to the team or the city or the game itself. Tonight, he’ll take to the court once more, Sisyphus with a bad elbow and a glare, just looking for the win.

Dwight Howard and the Future

Darius Soriano —  February 19, 2013

“The only thing that matters is the present right now,” Howard said when asked about his free agency. “There’s no need for me to talk about what happens at the end of the season, and there’s no need to go back and forth about it. I just feel like, at the end of the year, that’s when I should have my opportunity to make my own decision. And I shouldn’t be pressured or criticized for waiting until the end of the year. I don’t think it’s fair for my teammates. I don’t think it’s fair for the fans or anybody to be worried about what’s going to happen at the end of the year.”

via Sam Amick: Dwight Howard isn’t having fun with Lakers, free agency

Dwight Howard has become quite deft at answering questions about his future. The statement above is from a scrum at all-star weekend, but just as easily could have been handed out at the Lakers’ media day in October or before the Christmas Day game against the Knicks, or a couple of weeks ago after a win over the Nets. Howard’s response has become a canned statement, and for what it’s worth, I’m perfectly okay with that. Some feel that Howard should give a commitment through the media and let fans know that he’s going to stay, even if that’s really not true. Personally, I see little value in that.

Why lie? Just to get the media and/or fans off your back? What happens if/when you go against your word and leave? Won’t those quotes come back to him and end up making him look even worse? In Oklahoma City, fans and media were quick to cite James Harden’s quotes about not needing the max to remain with the Thunder after declining a max offer directly led to his trad to Houston. These are more than soundbites; they’re the record that will be used for/against you later on.

Which makes statements that Dwight also made a bit more interesting than the boilerplate language he’s been using all year. From the same Amick column:

“There’s no need to talk about (free agency),” he had said during the un-fun scrum. “I want to have fun. I want to enjoy myself and not talk about free agency or what I’m going to do at the end of the season.”

And this: “I’ve got to do what makes me happy. That’s it.”

And what makes you happy?

“Having fun on the court,” Howard said. “That makes me happy.”

Are you having fun now?

“Not at the present time, no,” he said. “Hopefully it gets better.”

In reading the tea leaves, this statement implies doom and gloom. It is, after all, a simple formula: Dwight likes fun; Dwight isn’t having fun; Dwight will leave in free agency.

Continue Reading…

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  February 13, 2013

Last night I watched news coverage of a burning house. And continued to watch the burning house. And I asked myself, how will CNN manage to tear themselves away from this all-consuming event? They wouldn’t go with a split-screen for the State of the Union would they? And then I watched the annual address and couldn’t recall the last time I’ve seen one half of a divided house looking quite so stubbornly grim. And the other side wasn’t exactly turning cartwheels. And then a game of basketball sections that felt entirely foreign to me, coming from a team I’ve watched for most of my life. There’s always silver linings and Dwight stepped up his game in a major way. And when it was over the Lakers had won but the season still feels like a lab experiment that has gone weirdly wrong.

A giant shadow cast its presence as a Lakers center found his basketball groove again. Kevin Ding from the OC Register considers the moment.

Janis Carr from the OC Register writes that even winning can’t silence critics, including Rick Fox.

Brian Kamenetzky writes on Sulia, about Kobe and his relationship with the large man who was watching Dwight from the sidelines.

Drew Garrison for Silver Screen and Roll recaps an utterly strange game for Kobe, and a much-needed win.

Arielle Moyal at Lakers Nation ponders the subject of Dwight Howard’s shoulder and the upcoming All-Star game.

Eric Pincus for the L.A. Times, interviews Jeff Van Gundy on the subject of D12 and free agency. Also according to Eric, Pau Gasol won’t need surgery on his foot.

It’s not about the Lakers but Jonathan Abrams at Grantland delivers a compelling story about Shaun Livingston, a guy who battled back from the worst injury you’re ever apt to see.

Also on the subject of rebuilt legs, Greg Bishop wrote this excellent piece for the NY Times last week, about former Duke and Bulls standout Jay Williams.

And finally, Will Ferrell played the part of a security cop in last night’s game. Courtesy Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie.

***

I don’t think this team has an identity, apart from their unique individual personalities. This is how the media mostly examines them, and the fans and non-fans as well. It becomes a water cooler series about Kobe and Dwight and Mike and Steve and who said what to who and what about that crazy third quarter? And lost in the mixed-up mess is any sense of this team as a system or definable style.

Unique personalities were certainly present during the Phil Jackson years. He himself was print worthy and there were feuds and star wars and nutty supporting characters like the Machine. But the team still had an overriding presence – they were the Triangle offense. Even if they sometimes strayed from the system, they were still known by it. There was a concept in place and other teams recognized this and fans recognized it and the media recognized it and it became an easy label and it became something you could freelance from – there were the ups and downs and miscues and moments when Phil pondered the wood grain pattern under his high chair and refused to call a time out, but this also was a part of their overall identity and for the most part, it worked. Until it didn’t. And since then, the team has wandered. And no matter how many hirings and firings and big box purchases that the organization makes, the season still ebbs further from its epicenter with each passing game – win or lose. Even a coach who was once labeled by his own seven seconds or less creation, is now simply adrift.

They say that winning cures all and that it just takes some time. And that injuries are what they are. And that still doesn’t provide an identity, at least not one you want. Tomorrow night brings another chapter in the hallway series, with the Clippers going through their own struggles as off late, treading water at five-and-five for their last ten. And if anybody has a storyline for what comes next, just add it below the jump.

Records: Lakers 23-27 (10th in the West), Bobcats 11-37 (15th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 105.1 (8th in the NBA), Bobcats 98.7 (29th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.2 (t-17th in the NBA), Bobcats 108.7 (30th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Dwight Howard
Bobcats: Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Hakim Warrick, Bismack Biyombo
Injuries: Lakers: Pau Gasol (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Bobcats:

 

Bag it, Dwight.

Seriously.

I say this, in all sincerity, not as an indictment of Dwight Howard, his toughness or his dedication to the Lakers’ collective (take that descriptor to heart at your own risk) quest for… I don’t know what. As the hits pile up faster than frozen slush on the Northeastern streets, it time – well, the latest time – for the Lakers to assess coldly the predicament in which they find themselves and pragmatically define the best case scenario for what remains of this wretched campaign.

Even before Pau Gasol felt a pop in his right plantar fascia, long gone was the notion that these Lakers will contend for a title. What now? Do we cling dogmatically to the misguided belief that this crew will unearth the grit, determination and shared strategic philosophy necessary to leapfrog at least two team at whom they’re looking up in the Western Conference standings, earning the always fun “team no one wants to see in the first round” title in the process? This would appear to be the least toxic of the Lakers’ venomous options, as (as has been discussed ad nauseum, here and elsewhere) the absence of a first round draft choice through which the team could retool inexpensively precludes the team from mailing in the remainder of this snakebitten season and returning next fall, younger and healthier. Missing playoffs strengthens the division rival Suns with a lottery pick, while a token postseason appearance sends a lesser selection to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s a lot of work for not a lot of anything.

If you take nothing else from the mildly coherent rant above, understand this: despite the temporary respite afforded by six victories in seven games (including the last three, with Pau, sans Dwight), the 2012-13 Lakers season is an unmitigated disaster. With nearly two thirds of the season gone, this team, anchored by “four future Hall of Famers” (I’m ready to not see that that again for a while), this team that will shell out for its players’ services nine figures this fiscal year, sports an abysmal 23-27 mark and has only just embarked on minimum six-week journey without one of its two remaining serviceable big men.

After some pointed comments by Kobe Bryant that may or may not have been as pointed as presented, Dwight Howard, aggravated labrum packed in Kevlar (or something), suited up for the first time in four games Thursday night in Boston. Despite conspicuously lacking both the aggressiveness and explosion that hallmark his characteristic dominance, Dwight had the Celtics in the penalty a scant 142 seconds into the game and racked up seven first quarter fouls on three of his frontcourt counterparts.

HOWEVAH…

In total, he saw the floor for just 28 minutes – a fourth of them coming during an inexplicable stint in an inconsequential fourth quarter – accumulating nine points, nine rebounds, four turnovers, no blocked shots and six fouls, while connecting on one of six attempts from the free throw line, and was regularly beaten to rebounds and loose balls by the likes of Jason Collins and Chris freaking Wilcox.

Do off nights happen? Sure. This, however, felt like more than a 2008 Game 6 doppelganger. A pair of fading contenders, each without a front line performer, locked horns with pride and the playoffs at stake, and the more desperate, less shorthanded of the two was found wanting. The 116-95 margin by which the Celtics ran the Lakers out of Boston flattered the visitors, who missed 10 of 18 free throws and 10 of 12 3-pointers en route to a 14-point halftime deficit and, despite Kobe going Mamba after the break, were torched to the tune of 37 points in the third quarter and faced a 26-point gap that relegated the starting backcourt to the pine for the entirety of the final 12.

Kneejerk alarmism and defeatism have never figured into my Laker fandom. However, to extricate from the bind in which they find themselves, these Lakers must not only sustain a run of play that has heretofore eluded them, they’ll have to do so without Pau Gasol, while potentially running into the ground the big man to whom they plan to tether their future. All for a first round date with the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder. What’s that thing they say about risk and reward?

Tonight, as the town in which they were last buried is itself blanket with snow, the Lakers roll into Charlotte, the order of the evening their fourth victory in six games on the second night of a back-to-back. Once again, Dwight Howard will accompany his teammates onto a floor on which the Lakers have lost five of seven games all time, as the boys in Forum Blue embark on their latest trek toward .500, against the NBA’s clear-cut bottom dweller. After an encouraging start to the season, the Bobcats have dropped thirty-two of their last thirty-six, including a 101-100 defeat at Staples Center in which they held a double-digit lead.

If the Lakers are unable to take care of business against a squad that ranks in the league’s bottom two at both ends of the floor, they’ll depart Miami Sunday evening have put to rest more than their annual Grammy trip.