Archives For Dwight Howard

From “Basketball Reasons”, Silver Screen & RollIs it time to panic? No wins, six losses, even with Dwight playing 33 minutes?! No, so go ahead and keep your Lakers flags flying on your cars. This is preseason, and the beginning of a very long journey for both the Lakers roster and the coaching staff. Through the first half of preseason Mike Brown was steadily playing lineups where Ronnie Aguilar and Reeves Nelson were featured players, so yes, there were many losses to be had. Quite frankly, the preseason is for the coaches and players to rediscover their identities, and this is a team that has plenty of searching to do with Steve Nash taking over as floor general, a widely new bench, and Dwight Howard having played only one game. Is it discouraging to not have a W in the left column yet? Yeah, sure. But there is good to be found in the Lakers preseason, and growth as a team is far more important than wins that mean nothing. 

From Mark Medina, LA Daily NewsA day removed from his first basketball game in six months, and Dwight Howard’s already focused on how to improve. Though he’s fully rehabbed from back surgery, Howard described his entire body as “pretty sore” and planned to receive treatment immediately following Monday’s practice at the team’s facility in El Segundo. “They said my back is going to ache,” Howard said of the team’s training staff. Following the Lakers’ 99-92 preseason loss Sunday to the Sacramento Kings, Howard graded himself a B after posting 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, 12 rebounds and four blocks in 33 minutes. That’s because he committed five of the team’s 22 turnovers, shot 3 of 8 from the free-throw line and admitted rustiness.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los AngelesDwight Howard had a big smile on his face a day after making his debut for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he still feels the sting of how things ended in Orlando when he thinks about his trophy shelf. Howard was recognized as the best defender in the league as well as the best interior defender when NBA.com announced the results of its annual survey of the league’s 30 general managers Monday, but Howard still wants to know why he isn’t the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. “I thought I should have won it last year, to be honest with you,” Howard told reporters after practice Monday. “I was a little bit upset about that.”

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Who is Jim Buss? Not the next Jerry Buss or Jerry West or Mitch Kupchak. He is his own man with his own ways – preferring to analyze his way through a life that outsiders might assume has been fed to him via purple and golden spoon, figuring out which can of food was the best deal per ounce before anyone ever stuck it on those supermarket price labels, contributing to the Lakers’ success with his statistical analysis that he summarizes with confidence: “I use a system that has proven to be right.” Buss, who turns 53 next month, sat down for an exclusive interview with The Register as the Lakers prepare for their latest run toward an NBA title. “I’ve felt the last two years, we had a chance to win the championship,” Buss said. “Adding two Hall of Famers, basically, to this squad? To me, you kind of erase that ‘we’re taking steps’ idea. We’re here. Do what we’re supposed to do.”

From Eric Pincus, Los Angeles TimesThe general managers have spoken. The results of the annual general managers survey were released by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, and naturally the Lakers were heavily featured. Will the Lakers win the 2013 NBA Finals?  According to 70% of the general managers who responded, the answer was a resounding “no”  (they picked the Miami Heat). The Lakers did come in second, with 23.3%. The majority  (60%) agreed that the Lakers would return to the NBA Finals after a two-year absence.  The Oklahoma City Thunder received 36.7% of the vote.

From Janis Carr, OC RegisterDwight Howard was sore “all over” after playing his first game in 197 days Sunday, but he reported no lingering pain in his surgically repaired back. Steve Nash said his ankle, which he twisted Sunday, was pain free, too. That was the good news coming out of Monday’s Lakers practice, less than 24 hours after the team finally debuted its projected starting five. The downside? Kobe Bryant sat out practice because of a strained and bruised right foot, and Metta World Peace took part in noncontact drills only wearing a splint protecting the middle finger on his right hand. Both players suffered the injuries in Sunday’s exhibition loss to Sacramento.

-Ryan Cole

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Los AngelesAndrew Bynum is the Philadelphia 76ers’ to worry about now. The Los Angeles Lakers have quite enough to keep them up at night as Dwight Howard continues to work his way back from offseason back surgery. But with Monday’s news out of Philadelphia that Bynum received another injection of Synvisc — a gel-like substance that sometimes provides relief for inflamed tissue — in his knee, it raises a larger question: Whose problems would you rather be saddled with: Bynum’s chronically painful, injured knees or Howard’s still-unproven back? It was a question Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had to answer over the summer before he made the trade that sent Bynum to Philadelphia in a four-team deal that brought Howard to Los Angeles from Orlando.

From Mark Medina, LA TimesAnytime the Lakers reserves stepped on the floor, an offensive drought ensued. They would cough up leads. They’d go on long stretches without a field goal. The Lakers were left wondering who would lead them out of the darkness. The team believed they had solved that problem by adding 15-year veteran Antawn Jamison, who’s averaged a career 19.5 points both as a starter and a reserve. The Lakers acquired this piece at the veteran’s minimum, no less. Yet through four preseason games, Jamison has hardly provided such scoring punch, averaging only 5.8 points on 27.6% shooting. But the Lakers hardly seem worried.

From Brian Kamenetzky, ESPN Los AngelesMark Stein delivered the news Tuesday afternoon. The original assumption, that CBA rules prevented Derek Fisher’s return to the Lakers until March 15, turns out not to be true. Because Fisher was bought out by the Houston Rockets following last year’s deadline deal before he was eligible to pick up his extension for this year, he’s able to sign wherever he’d like, including with the Lakers. Stein reports at least theoretical interest from both sides, though I’d be almost shocked if it actually happened. Still, for a lot of fans, the lure of Fish is still strong. I get it. This is a Lakers blog. If you need the significance of Derek Fisher explained, I suspect you’re new around here. But strip away the sentimentality, and it becomes clear bringing him back isn’t a good idea.

From Jeff Miller, OC RegisterHe arrived with three names. Kobe Bryant didn’t know any of them. So, for the first couple of days of Lakers training camp, Bryant called him “Rook,” as in rookie, as in maybe you made a name for yourself in college but here you show up as a nobody. You start at name zero. “And then one day it was ‘Odom,’ ” Darius Johnson-Odom says. “The next day it was ‘Johnson-Odom.’ The next day it was ‘D.J.’ So you can kind of feel it. You can kind of feel when you gain their respect.” From the outside looking in, the Lakers have a dynamic collection of big personalities and large talent, a starting five at least 80 percent of which should end up in the Hall of Fame. But what about from the inside looking out? Apparently, the view isn’t much different, especially when you’re still something of an outsider yourself.

From “Basketball Reasons”, Silver Screen & RollWith the talent at hand, hitting the ground running may be as simple as plug and play for Nash and company. However, the level of execution needed to reach the top for the Lakers is going to take time. With the newly implemented Princeton principles still in the infancy stages, the offense is still a work in progress. The cast is still learning the script and defining their roles. The Lakers are reinventing the wheel for one last shot with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, while mustering all the incentive they can dig up for Dwight Howard to stay with the Lakers long term. At the heart of all of this, Nash will have to find a way to balance the flow of the game on his shoulders while it slowly comes together. The ball, and even more importantly, the offense is in his hands.

-Ryan Cole

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Los AngelesDwight Howard had no idea how good he had it as he left Staples Center late Saturday night. “Day off tomorrow!” he said happily as he left the arena. After a long week of practice, three exhibition games, plus travel to Fresno and Ontario, it wasn’t surprising the Lakers would take Sunday off before starting a week in which they’ll practice every day, play three more exhibition games and travel to Anaheim and Las Vegas. It wasn’t surprising unless of course you spent any time around the team during Mike Brown’s first season as head coach. During the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, the Lakers worked 19 straight days from the time training camp started on December 9, finally taking a day off on December 28 after opening the regular season with back-to-back-to-back games. Things didn’t get much easier from there, as Brown earned the nickname “All day, every day” from his players, many of whom chafed at the coach’s hard-driving style.

From Mark Medina, LA TimesOne key Lakers veteran has high expectations for something that hardly warranted praise in recent seasons. “I feel we can be one of the most dangerous benches in the league,” said Antawn Jamison. Despite the “Bench Mob” and “Killer Bees” nicknames in recent seasons, few would describe that unit in Jamison’s terms. Last season, the Lakers finished last in points (20.5), 28th in efficiency (27.2), 20th in shooting percentage (41.7%) and 28th in point differential (9.4). Coach Mike Brown played musical chairs in the bench rotation in hopes he’d find a sudden surprise. Even with Lamar Odom falling off the deep end in Dallas, his absence created an irreplaceable void as the team’s bench leader. The Lakers have made changes this off-season to address those problems. They added dependable secondary scoring (Jamison) and outside shooting (Jodie Meeks). They kept young talent (Devin Ebanks) and sudden surprises (Jordan Hill).

From Trevor Wong, Lakers.comA year ago, Metta World Peace conceded he was out of shape. His shot was off, he seemed to be a step slow defensively and his entire game was affected. “The lockout hurt me a lot, because last season going into the playoffs I had a nerve issue in my back,” he explained during his exit interview in May. “Once the lockout happened I wasn’t able to address it so all I could do was rest. It took me 2-3 months to get in shape.” During the first half of last season, World Peace shot only 33.5 percent from the field and 23.9 percent from the 3-point line, while averaging just 4.9 points.

From Brian Kamenetzky, ESPN Los AngelesKobe knows exactly how he prioritizes that sort of thing relative to winning. Over the course of now 17 seasons in L.A., the demands on Kobe as a leader have changed. Earlier in his career, Bryant’s role wasn’t as expansive. He didn’t so much lead (not in the way we traditionally think of the word, at least) as get out front in a very competitive environment and drag guys with him through will, stubbornness, and on-floor talent. In time, though, as more has been required Bryant has adjusted. He’s softened the edges, grown less insular, and learned you can’t be that guy all the time and expect people to follow. There is greater depth to his leadership, and never does he demand levels of hard work he’s himself unwilling to meet.

From Marc Stein, ESPN.comImportant update to our weekend report regarding the prospect of a return to the Los Angeles Lakers for veteran guard Derek Fisher. Sources briefed on the discussions told ESPN.com on Monday that Fisher has, indeed, been verified by the league office as eligible to re-sign with the Lakers since July 1, which runs counter to the widely held assumption that Fisher had to wait at least one year from the date that the Lakers dealt him to Houston in March before a reunion with Kobe Bryant would be permissible.

From Mike Trudell, Lakers.comLakers reserve forward Earl Clark strained his left groin and is out indefinitely. Clark, acquired in the Dwight Howard trade with Orlando, has played solid defense in training camp but is not expected to be in the regular bench rotation. In the regular season, the Lakers will most likely have Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol play center for the second unit, with Jordan Hill and Antawn Jamison getting the power forward minutes.

-Ryan Cole

The question posed in the title might seem utterly ridiculous given that it’s a widely accepted fact that the former Magic big man is the best center in the league and also perhaps arguably the second or third best player in the NBA.

Many will readily admit that he is the standard by which all active defensive players should be measured and that no one does a better job of fighting for position and tracking down rebounds during games in addition to his offensive responsibilities. Thus, Dwight Howard is an elite player; and once again, many are quite fine with this notion.

But here’s the problem: when it’s time to quantify that, he tends to get shortchanged. Sounds preposterous right? Well have a look at the MVP voting in the past few seasons and it paints a perfect picture of how undervalued the best center in the game is.

One can forgive the fact that Howard came up 7TH in voting for the 2011-12 season given the fact he missed a small chunk of the season and kind of turned off voters because of his trade demand — although one could argue that his request should in no way affect his candidacy — but what about his previous seasons?

He finished the 2010-11 regular season second in MVP votes to Derrick Rose, but one could make the case that he would have finished third if LeBron James wasn’t carrying a huge bull’s eye on his back that stemmed from the Decision and the Miami Heat welcome party.

The 2009-10 season saw D12 finish fourth in voting behind LeBron James (winner), Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant respectively.

And if we look back to the 2008-09 season, the former Defensive Player of the Year finished fourth again behind LeBron James (winner), Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade in that specific order.

This is not to say that Howard should have won the Maurice Podoloff trophy in three of the past four seasons, but perhaps he should have obtained more votes and finished higher than where he eventually landed. Granted, voting occasionally comes down to biases — a voter that resides on the east coast may have more chances to watch a player from the Eastern Conference than one in the Western Conference — as well as other subjective requirements that make it tough to accurately gauge who should win the Most Valuable Player award.

But in this case, the argument isn’t that Howard should have won, but rather that more consideration should have been thrown his way.

Normally, when voting for the award, it’s impossible not to look at the player’s production, his contribution to his team and obviously the team’s overall record. Typically, fans and voters alike look for a player to be one of the best in the league, to be dominant in games and to lead his team to somewhere along the lines of a top five record in the NBA. It’s not a perfect science, but this partly explains why LeBron James has won three out of the past four MVP trophies, and why Derrick Rose won the award at the conclusion of the 2010-11 season.

But if we look deeper, we’ll notice that Howard’s performance in the past four seasons was more than worthy of finishing in the top three in voting.

During the 2008-09 regular season, Howard led the league in rebounds per game and blocks per game all the while putting up 20.6 points per game for an Orlando Magic team that finished with an impressive 59-23 record (fourth best record in the league).

His brilliant defense combined with his presence on offense allowed an Orlando Magic team to not only have one of the best records in the league but also to make it all the way to the NBA Finals before falling at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Given that the Cleveland Cavaliers finished with a 66-17 record and that the Lakers finished with a 65-17 record, one can understand why LeBron James and Kobe Bryant finished first and second respectively in voting. Both were playing at the top of their games with teams that finished with the two best records in the league.

Mind you, the Miami Heat finished with a mediocre at best 43-39 record on the strength of Dwyane Wade’s superhuman performance that season as he finished second to LeBron James in player efficiency ranking thanks to his Jerry West-like statistical line of 30.2 points per game, 5 rebounds per game and 7.5 assists per game on 49.1 percent field goal shooting.

Clearly a case can be made that Wade’s impressive season could warrant supplanting Howard’s; but Dwight’s team won 16 more games and the current Lakers’ center was an overall plus-6.7 that season in terms of plus-minus rating (according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool) whereas the player formerly known as Flash was a mere plus-0.3. Although D12 should have gotten the nod, one can understand why Wade got more votes given his great performance that season.

If we jump to the 2009-10 regular season, Howard somehow got lost in the shuffle and finished fourth in MVP voting. LeBron James won his second Maurice Podoloff award on the strength of his Cavaliers having the best record in the league all the while submitting the best PER in the NBA.

Kevin Durant finished second in the voting with the Oklahoma City Thunder going 50-32 and earning the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. KD led the league in scoring that season and also submitted good rebounding numbers, which in the mind of many made him a stud that OKC could not do without. The Thunder forward finished the season with a plus-3.5 plus-minus rating, mind you his defense at the time needed some work.

The case for Durant was a relatively good one at the time it seemed, but sometimes the benefit of hindsight can help give some perspective. Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers had the best third best record in the league while the Black Mamba played to his usual standards as he submitted a cool 27, 5 and 5 line for the season and enjoyed his last season as an at times elite level defender. His great defensive energy came in spurts during the regular season and showed up during the playoffs, but Bryant was clearly a top player in that season and perhaps should have finished higher than Durant in MVP voting given the multiple facets in which he affected games (scoring, playmaking and defense).

But one thing that is definitely clear is that Howard should have cruised to second place once all the votes had been accumulated at the end of the 2009-10 season. The perennial All-Star once again led the league in rebounds per game as well as blocks per game and provided his stellar brand of defense as usual and led the Orlando Magic to the second best record in the league. Much like he is today, he was a matchup nightmare and a player that often had to be doubled in order to limit the damage he did on the interior against opponents. And keep in mind, much like he had for most of his career, D12 appeared in all 82 regular season games and yet finished fourth in the voting.

In addition, one can easily make the claim that no one did more with less in terms of talent than both LeBron James and Dwight Howard during this stretch. Both players had to maximize the talent of those around them regardless of how poor it was and yet they respectively led their teams in 2010 to the two best records in the league despite glaring weaknesses on their squads as well as the fact that they constantly had to play at a high level for their teams to be competitive even against some of the weaker teams in the NBA. And somehow James was crowned as the most valuable player in basketball whereas Dwight was nothing more than afterthought.

Considering Dwight Howard’s level of production in recent seasons and the almost surreal level at which he defends, it seems awfully silly to sit here and regurgitate the fact that he has been at least for the past three or four seasons one of the three best players in the league and that his high level of play has not only kept the Magic contending for playoff appearances but also put them in the top echelon of teams judging by their overall record of 207-105 (66.4 percent winning percentage) in the last four seasons. And yet, it seems necessary to throw out reminders given that few seem to have recognized this.

Perhaps the issue is not Howard himself, but rather how fans, media members and other players view the league as a whole. Indeed, it’s easier to appreciate a perimeter player’s game given the beauty, grace, aesthetics and polish that one can directly see in it. Thus, watching the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade operate on a basketball court is far more enjoyable for most than observing Dwight Howard battle on the block for post position, rebounding position and what have you. In addition, there is a stigma associated to centers, where more just seems to always be expected.

Consider this tidbit, in the last 20 NBA seasons, only three centers have been crowned as the league MVP (Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal), with the most recent one getting awarded in the spring of 2000 (O’Neal).

It may not be fair, but in order for Howard to ever get great consideration for the prestigious individual honor, he may have to surpass the terrific level of play he has given fans and the league in recent seasons.

But there may be an ace in the hole for the former Olympian: should he produce at the same rate during the 2012-13 season that he has in the past and that the Los Angeles Lakers win somewhere between 60 and 69 games, voters might not be able to ignore D12 anymore considering that he would be doing it on a juggernaut and in a huge market.

I have this saying that I like to use: “win, lose or draw; everything is always bigger with the Lakers”.

And Dwight Howard might just be the one to prove it…

Statistical support provided by NBA.com

The Los Angeles Lakers pulled off the seemingly unthinkable last week when they hit one of the biggest homeruns in franchise history by acquiring Dwight Howard in a four-team trade. Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss have proven that their commitment to adding more championship banners to the franchise has never been more strong given the way they have shaped up the roster in this offseason.

The purple and gold acquired the best center in the league, a certified game changer at both ends of the floor, but it’s still worth visiting what exactly that means for the Lakers when we break things down. In order to do so, Forum Blue & Gold reached out to Eddy Rivera of Magic Basketball to obtain some insights on the big man:

“With Dwight, you’re getting the best defensive player in the NBA (only LeBron is his peer defensively). I think Mike Brown will have a field day coming up with schemes tailored to maximize Dwight’s strengths on defense. On offense, 1/5 pick-and-rolls with Nash and Dwight will be devastating. And with the mere presence of Nash, Kobe, and Pau on the court, Dwight should have a field day in the low post with his scoring and passing. 

“Dwight represents a far better fit with the new-look Lakers, as opposed to Bynum, because of his ability to get the most out of Nash (and vice-versa) in pick-and-roll sets, as well as his ability to make a far-reaching impact on defense — like hide Nash’s defensive deficiencies, for example. And because of that, I fully expect L.A. to be a devastating team based on talent and fit alone. How good they can be ultimately falls on Brown’s coaching ability.”

Most will look at what Howard brings to the table defensively and honestly, it would be hard not to do. Indeed, according to basketball value, last season the Orlando Magic boasted a defensive rating of 101.52 with the big man on the floor, but that figure ballooned to 108.60 when he was off the court. A big reason for that was his ability to protect the paint.

D12’s gifts on the defensive end shine bright when he is asked to be a help defender as he finds ways to either block or simply change shots all the while avoiding fouls. Howard’s instincts and basketball IQ make it as such that he is constantly in a position to help out his teammates should they get burned on the perimeter.

And yet, he still has more to offer defensively.

The big man’s foot speed, long arms and defensive technique make him one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in the league given that he is able to successfully execute every type of coverage needed to thwart the screen roll action. Howard can hedge out strong on the ball handler and recover in time to protect the paint, trap the man with the ball or play off him without necessarily exposing himself to getting burned off the bounce.

Consequently, teams that are anchored defensively by Dwight Howard promise to protect the paint like a fortress. According to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, when the former Olympian was on the court for the Magic last season, Orlando only surrendered 33.4 points in the paint per game when projected over 48 minutes. When the former Defensive Player of the Year was off the court mind you, those figures went up to 44.1 points in the paint per game (once again, projected over 48 minutes).

The Lakers as a whole last season gave up 41.5 points in the paint per game and thus stand to benefit from the big man’s presence on the defensive end.  

Howard is a defensive ace that should more than likely upgrade the Lakers’ defense, but he also brings something else to the table: offense.

As Eddy Rivera stated, Howard will be a perfect fit when playing with Steve Nash because of his ability to catch and finish in the pick-and-roll as well as Nash’s ability to deliver the ball in such a setting. According to MySynergySports, Dwight Howard converted 74 percent of his field goal attempts — he shot the ball 73 times in such situations last season — last season in the screen-and-roll action. That’s a staggering conversion rate, but given that he does a good job of catching the ball and then going up and finishing strong over defenders, it makes sense.

But just for comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at Andrew Bynum in the same situation. Given that the former Laker big man often towered over his defenders and did a good job of getting position right next to the basket as the roll man in the pick-and-roll, one would expect him to convert more than his fair share of attempts in this setting. MySynergySports tells us that the All-Star center converted 57.1 percent of his field goal attempts — 35 such attempts — last season as the roll man in the pick-and-roll action, which is an impressive figure all by itself. And really, that puts into perspective just how much of an excellent finisher Howard is.

This becomes quite tricky for opposing defenses when Howard keeps setting screens and rolls to the basket because he typically attracts of wave of defenders; which is how the Magic shooters consistently got open last season.

Although the Lakers only converted 32.6 percent of their 3-point field goals last season (tied for 25th in the NBA), Howard will help them consistently get open looks from long-range but it will also open up the court for midrange shooters such as Kobe Bryant, Antawn Jamison, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash to name a few. And well, let’s just say that if you had to rely on these players to hit an open jumper to save your life, you’d feel pretty confident about your odds.

Howard comes to the Lakers with an effective but not quite aesthetic post game as well as athleticism destined to bring more highlights to the franchise but he also comes with a glaring weakness. Those that followed the Lakers in the Shaq era are quite familiar with it: the team will get in the bonus early and probably lead the league in free throw attempts, but they will miss their fair share as well given D12’s inability to convert a high percentage of his freebies.

With that said, provided that he is the same player prior to surgery on his back, the Lakers are getting a once in a generation type of talent that just happens to perfectly fit with his new roster.

Can we get the season to start already?