Don’t confuse numbers and actual ability and influence. Dwight Howard has some pretty good stats for the Los Angeles Lakers, but that’s where the positives end.
There’s no doubt that Howard was the biggest name to switch teams during the off-season. Via trade, the Los Angeles Lakers managed once again not to lose too much and get the best player that was on the market. Not a free agent, Howard’s contract ends at the end of the season, but who believed he might be saying no to the Lakers and their ‘Galacticos’ ambitions?
After 32 games and a 15-17 record, Dwight Howard is averaging 17.4 points and 12 rebounds per game. His scoring was bound to take a dip, playing alongside Kobe Bryant and a dominant big man like Pau Gasol, while his free throw shooting continues to be among the NBA’s worst at 51.1%.
He’s had a few big games – like the recent 33 points and 14 rebounds performance in the loss to the Portland Trail Blazers; like the 28-13 game against the Rockets and his best game of the season, with 28 points and 20 rebounds in the win against the Denver Nuggets.
But with all the talk this season about being the next in the long line of legendary Lakers big men, Howard is just a very good role player at the moment. This is Kobe Bryant’s team, and every word Bryant said earlier this season about passing the torch. Kobe Bryant is calling the shots, behind the scenes as well, and Howard is finding it hard to mesh in a team that is more and more looking like just a bunch of players waiting for Bryant to pass them the ball. Steve Nash gets to touch it a bit more than others.
Howard, after another disappointing outcome to a game against the Los Angeles Clippers, if feeling the pressure, and is feeling his team isn’t really where it should be. Not playing like a team, but it’s more than that. Dwight Howard knew he was going to be the young guy and the glue of this defense, but he isn’t used to not being of vocal importance after tearing a team apart by his own will last season. There’s only so much he can do in the paint, and teams are exploiting the bad defending by Kobe Bryant and whoever it is that’s playing next to him to shred the Lakers’ defense through pick n’ rolls and even with simple isolation plays.
It really starts off the court. I think you have to have that relationship and that chemistry off the court for it to really blossom on the court. It takes time to develop that. You just don’t come together and then expect to be best friends right away. It just doesn’t happen like that.
This isn’t a team that plays for one another. These are a bunch of stars, most of them beyond their prime, put together in a situation that isn’t developing the way they thought it would. Kobe Bryant doesn’t support Dwight Howard in post-game interviews or on the court with some talks and non-stares. Sometimes we’re reading too much into those things, but when it’s Kobe Bryant, every thing he says and does has a purpose.
The problem? Howard isn’t in a situation he can turn things around. He isn’t the first or second option to get the ball. He isn’t playing in an offense that is quite suited for his strengths. He definitely isn’t too happy with what happens on the basketball court too often. Maybe, just maybe, re-signing with the Lakers doesn’t look like such a good idea anymore.