Archive for the 'Dwight Howard' Category

Teammates, Management Weigh in on Howard

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers - Game FourOver the course of last week’s exit interviews, many of Dwight Howard’s teammates plus general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Mike D’Antoni weighed in on the big man’s season, adding their thoughts on the impending free agent’s future.

As relayed by Kupchak, the Lakers understand why Howard will wait until July to discuss his future, as will nearly every free-agent-to-be; that’s to be expected with the way things are set up in the NBA.

With that said, there’s no question that both players and management are hoping Howard decides to re-sign with Los Angeles. Here are some of the quotes about Howard that stood out:

MITCH KUPCHAK
Q: On why he’s hopeful Howard will re-sign with the Lakers:
Kupchak: We have a great legacy, a great history of great players in this city dating back to when the franchise came here in 1960, and he certainly fits the mold. But I don’t want to get ahead of the game and take anything for granted. Obviously, I’m hopeful and optimistic. From what I understand, our players that came in today were very supportive of him returning. If you just look at the opportunity, which is to play for this franchise in this city, with what this franchise has meant to this city and its accomplishments, that’s probably the most any team can offer a player. Certainly, some players might not prefer to play on a stage like in Los Angeles, but I do know that this franchise will continue to be run as a model franchise. This is a very desirable place for players to play. What it comes down to is being comfortable selling the Los Angeles Lakers, and that’s where my confidence lies the most.

Q: On standing up for Howard around the All-Star break in a Lakers.com piece (among other places) when he thought Howard was being criticized unfairly, and how Howard responded:
Kupchak: I think it helped that people recognized what he was going through. Once again, the expectations leading into the season were just so high and so off the charts that any kind of sub performance would result in negative feedback, and that’s what took place. When you’re not performing to the level of expectations, people look for – and rightfully so – reasons why, and for some reason, he seemed to get most of the criticism. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he was here on a one-year deal, and for business reasons, he has to wait until this summer, but nobody understands that … I don’t think people understand it’s been about a year since he had surgery. Here’s a guy that had surgery last April and here it is a full NBA season later, and he played a full slate of games. I asked everybody here to look back at his March performance (17.9 points, 15.2 rebounds), and understandably, people aren’t going to say: “He’s not playing as well as he could because he had back surgery.” When you’re on the court in this league, it means you’re ready to play. I feel as if he’s not been given his due credit and he’s been under appreciated.

MIKE D’ANTONI
Q: On Howard wanting to take his time in making a decision regarding his free agency:
D’Antoni: We’ll just have to go on what he says. I don’t have any insight other than what he said. He will take his time and make a good decision. As everybody said, and everybody knows, and hopes what the right place is. But that’s something he has to come to, and he will … You want everybody to be happy and show them what it could be like. He knows. He’ll take that information and sort it out.

KOBE BRYANT
Q: On his feelings whether Howard will re-sign with the Lakers:
Bryant: I hope he does. It’s just a matter of what he feels in his heart what and he wants to do. He’s reached a crossroads of his career and I think Los Angeles is the perfect spot for him to assert himself, to put his foot down and have his career really take off. There’s no greater place for centers to play than here in Los Angeles … I’ll talk to him, bring him out to the house, chill with him a little bit, watch a cartoon movie or something and we’ll have a good time.

Q: On Howard’s emergence later in the season and prospects for 2013-14: Bryant: You look at what he’s done in the second half of the season, it’s been pretty impressive – coming off of back surgery as well. This summer, he has all summer to get himself in tip top form and next year I think he’ll be unbelievable.

Q: On if the team realized what it had this past season, and if they can achieve their goal next season if the core group of players returns:
Bryant: We understood, but we didn’t have a chance to develop it because of injury after injury after injury. It was crazy. It was a constant process for us, but we finally figured it out. It’s great to bring the group back because we know what to do, and we know how lethal we can be.

PAU GASOL
Q: On how potentially keeping Howard would impact the Spaniard:
Gasol: I don’t think it’s 100 percent attached to that. I think the franchise would like to keep Dwight, will do what it takes to keep Dwight here. But that doesn’t mean that if he’s here, I’m automatically gone, at least as I understand.

Q: On the season, and how the team had to adjust to each other over the course of the year:
Gasol: In the beginning, we struggled more because everybody wanted to assert themselves and establish themselves. Things didn’t work out that well from the beginning. The coaching change had a big role into it, but we progressed as the season went on and put our individual desires aside and found what worked. We finished the season playing the right way as far as a balance.

STEVE NASH
Q: On his feelings on Howard’s decision this offseason:
Nash: I’m very hopeful that Dwight will be back. I think this is the place for him. He’s in the prime of his career, and he has his best years ahead of him. He can play for one of the greatest franchises in sports in an amazing city. I’m hopeful he sees it that way.

Q: On elite players coming together in a short time with no training camp in a systsem:
Nash: We have a lot of guys who have had great careers, great success that have done it in their way. But when you come together you can’t do it in four or five different ways. I think that was really difficult for everyone, for the players, and particularly for the coach. We can make a long list of what (D’Antoni) faced this year: coming in late, the craziest injury situation I’ve ever seen, guys playing when they’re not themselves. It’s hard to find an identity when guys aren’t what they’re going to be in a week, or out of the lineup in a week.

JODIE MEEKS
Q: On his relationship with Howard and whether he believes he’ll re-sign in Los Angeles:
Meeks: I know he loves this city and this team. We got pretty close as friends. I can’t say exactly what he’s going to do, but I know he likes (Los Angeles).

EARL CLARK
Q: On if he sensed playing with Howard in Orlando and Los Angeles if he learned anything this season:
Clark: Once he came to L.A., he realized media here is very different. Here, there’s more pressure and a lot of people are coming to see you. I think he felt more pressure of being in an organization where losing is not an option. I think it was good for his career. I think this summer he’ll continue to work on his game, and get better. L.A. is good for Dwight, and he has a challenge here. I think he’ll answer it and bring a championship here.

Dwight Howard: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_HowardDuring his first season in Los Angeles, Dwight Howard appeared in 76 games – missing six due to a torn labrum – towards averages of 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds (led the NBA) and 2.4 blocks on 57.8 percent field goals (second in the NBA) and 49.2 percent free throws. It took Howard essentially the entire season to rebuild his strength and mobility from season-ending back surgery last April.

In four postseason games against San Antonio, Howard averaged 17.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks on 61.9 percent field goals and 44 percent from the foul line.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Of course, the media was curious to know what Howard is thinking in terms of what he’ll do as an unrestricted free agent. His initial response is that he still needs time to “clear his head,” think about everything. Several of his teammates, including Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, expressed optimism that he’d return to Los Angeles, but we’ll of course have to wait and see.

- Howard reiterated that this season was in many ways a “nightmare” from which the team couldn’t wake up. Clearly, it was hard on everybody.
“I’m not happy that we’re sitting at home, that we got swept … but things like this happen in life. You have bad moments, bad years, but we survived. I think the future will be better for me as an individual.”

- Howard thinks it’s “great” to have the support from his current teammates and the organization throughout a struggle of a season. “To see Kobe and Steve and how supportive they are is great. Steve was the first one to talk to me before the game was over, and he said, ‘You have a tough decision to make, but I’m here for you.’”

- On the injuries he dealt with this season: “My back was pretty much painful the whole year. I came back five or six months earlier than I was supposed to, for this team, for this city because I wanted to win so bad. My shoulder, I’m going to have that looked at tomorrow. Hopefully I won’t have to have surgery. Whatever the case may be, I’m going to do whatever it takes myself to get right. I didn’t have the opportunity to get in the gym last offseason, but that’s something I’m looking forward to.”

- On not becoming the defensive team they wanted to: “That takes time. It’s tough.” He cited the injuries that kept the team essentially from practicing especially late in the season, and just prevented any kind of real progress.”

- On Los Angeles: “I love it. I had an awesome first year (living in Los Angeles), and we’ll see.”

- Howard was repeatedly asked about his plan for next season, and he repeatedly stated that he couldn’t really get into it. “I just want to be happy.” He didn’t tip his hand, and said he didn’t want pressure from anybody. (Lakers GM) “Mitch (Kupchak) said he wasn’t going to pressure me, and we’re in a good place.”

- On what he wants to add in the offseason: “I’m just going to work on everything … not having an opportunity to work on it last summer. I can really sit down and try to re-define some of the things I can do on the floor, instead of just being one dimensional and sticking myself in the post and play out of there. I want to expand (my game).”

Watch every exit interview on our Exit Interview Central

Center of Importance

Los Angeles Lakers v Orlando MagicLook no further than Dwight Howard’s split stats in Lakers wins and losses to see how critical his play is to the team:

WINS (36): 18.7 ppg, 59.1% FG’s, 50.2% FT’s, 13.1 rpg, 2.9 bpg, 1.4 spg, 35.5 mpg
LOSSES (33): 13.9 ppg, 52.4% FG’s, 47.6% FT’s, 11.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 0.7 spg, 35.3 mpg

Howard’s general play has improved considerably of late as he gets healthier and more comfortable with his role, and indeed, his numbers are generally up since the All-Star break. His biggest improvement has come on the glass (14.7 up from 11.8) and on defense in general, while the rest of the numbers are similar (16.8 ppg from 16.3).

But, clearly, the team has gone as he has, the difference as plain as day in those W/L splits.

Howard Rounding Into Form

In L.A.’s 106-97 win against Orlando, Dwight Howard posted a season-high 39 points, to go along with 16 boards and three blocks.

“He looked like Dwight that dominated the league the past few seasons,” Magic center Nikola Vucevic acknowledged postgame.

That much is evident as the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is averaging 24.8 points, 16.3 rebounds, 4.0 blocks and 2.0 steals in the last four games – all Laker wins. He’s also grabbed at least 12 boards in 11 straight games, the second longest streak of his career.

Since the All-Star break, L.A. has won nine of 11 games. In those victories, the purple and gold have posted a defensive efficiency of 99.6, which would rank ninth in the NBA. A key reason for their recent turnaround has been the play of Howard, and Kobe Bryant acknowledged as much.

“A lot of it starts with Dwight – him just buying into what we need him to do and just excelling at it,” he said. “His game just has been absolutely on point.”

Howard also allowed that he’s feeling much better, knowing full well he can impact a game despite not being 100 percent. Still less than a year removed from back surgery, he’s moving increasingly better.

“I’ve been better than I’ve been all season,” he said in late February. “I knew it’d be a process. The better shape I’m in, the more stuff I’m able to do on the floor and be more active.”

In the last week, he’s made his imprint in more ways than one. He keyed the Lakers comeback victory at New Orleans last Wednesday, anchoring a defense that held the Hornets scoreless for the final 6:47. In Sunday’s victory vs. Chicago, he pulled down 21 rebounds.

“(Howard) just dominated the paint with shot blocking, rebounding and physicality,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team managed just 81 points on 37.1 percent field goals. “That set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Keyed by Howard’s impact on defense, the Lakers now sit in the No. 8 spot at 34-31, a half-game ahead of Utah and just a half-game behind Houston for the No. 7 seed. More than just Howard, though, the team has long recognized that this season would be a process. Steve Nash cited “timing” as a reason why L.A. has started to click.

Bryant is pleased that his teammates, and Howard specifically, have embraced what they need to do to be successful.

“I think we found a rhythm,” Bryant said. “We found our roles. Everything is just kind of fitting together right now. We’re playing exceptional basketball.”

Injuries in the Front Court

With the news that Pau Gasol suffered a tear of the plantar fascia, the continuation of what’s been somewhat of a Murphy’s Law season for the front court in terms of injuries continued, leaving L.A. unsure of who to expect on the floor.

The team learned that it would be without top reserve big man Jordan Hill for the remainder of the season on Jan. 11, and he’s subsequently undergone surgery on his ailing left hip. Gasol has already missed 13 games with plantar fascia problems in addition to a concussion and knee tendinitis (LAL going 5-8), while Dwight Howard has missed six games (3-3) due to a labrum tear in his right shoulder.

Howard most recently aggravated the shoulder injury he originally suffered on Jan. 4 on Jan. 30 at Phoenix, and has missed the past three games. He did participate in Thursday morning’s shootaround in advance of this evening’s game against Boston, for which he’s considered a game-time decision.

We took a look at how the Lakers have done with and without Howard and Gasol in the line up:

WITH GASOL AND HOWARD BOTH IN (3-8 in 2013)
Since the beginning of January, when the Lakers were really struggling at both ends, the team went 3-8 with both in the lineup (3-3 at home; 0-5 away). In those 11 games, Gasol came off the bench in seven contests and started four. LAL averaged 98.1 points per game on 45.4 percent field goals and 32.6 percent from three, with 55.2 rebounds, 22.4 assists and 15.4 turnovers. Opponents averaged 100.7 points on 46.3 percent field goals and 34.2 percent threes, with 48.8 rebounds, 24.1 assists and 10.8 turnovers.
*NOTE: Jordan Hill appeared in three of these games (PHI, @LAC, DEN).

The 3-8 record is a bit misleading, as the Lakers won three of the final four when both started, losing only a Phoenix game they’d led by 13 early in the fourth quarter before Howard went down and missed the final seven minutes. It appeared that they’d finally figured it out, with Gasol dominating opposing second units and Howard anchoring the defense.

WITH HOWARD IN AND GASOL OUT (2-0)
L.A. defeated Cleveland & Milwaukee, both at home, rather easily. They averaged 108.5 points per game on 53.6 field goals and 42.6 percent from three, with 43.5 rebounds, 31 assists & 16 turnovers. The two opponents averaged 90.5 ppg on 38.4 percent field goals and 22.4 percent from three, with 46.5 rebounds, 19.5 assists & 14 TO’s. Howard averaged 26.5 points, 15.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in those two.

Of course, Cleveland and Milwaukee are not among the East’s, let alone NBA’s, elite, and the Lakers were desperate for some home wins after a tough road trip and winless month.

WITH GASOL IN AND HOWARD OUT (3-0)
L.A. won three consecutive games at Minnesota, Detroit & Brooklyn, all relatively close finishes. The Lakers averaged 100.3 points on 44.7 percent field goals & 32.3 percent from three, with 56.0 rebounds, 23.7 assists and 13.3 turnovers. Opponents averaged just 93.3 points on 41.9 percent field goals and 35.6 percent from three, with 55.0 rebounds, 21.7 assists and 15 turnovers per game.

Gasol averaged 20.0 points, 8.7 boards, 2.3 assists and 1.7 blocks as the feature center, and it’s perhaps the 41.9 percent shooting towards 93.3 points that’s most impressive from L.A.’s defense without Howard, in addition to Metta World Peace missing the Brooklyn game.

WITHOUT GASOL OR HOWARD (0-3)
The Lakers got crushed in three consecutive games at Houston and San Antonio and vs. Oklahoma City when neither of its two big men played. They averaged 106.0 points on 44.4 percent field goals and 32.6 percent from three, with 49.7 rebounds, 23.3 assists and 12.7 turnovers. The three opponents, who happen to be the NBA’s top three offensive teams, averaged 116.3 points on 51.6 percent field goals and 40.5 percent from three, with 54.0 rebounds, 26.3 assists and 18 turnovers per game.

ALL IN ALL
Clearly, both bigs being out is the scenario the Lakers can ill afford for too long, even as the emergence of Earl Clark will let the purple and gold get away with an ultra small line up at times with Clark at center and Metta World Peace at power forward. Yes, L.A. was only 3-8 when both played in January, but the team was simply playing poorly in general, not sharing the ball on offense or playing hard enough on defense, something that changed after the meeting in Memphis in which most got onto the same page.

Even in a small sample size that makes drawing any grand conclusions difficult, we’ve seen the Lakers figure out how to win with one of their two best bigs out. They’ll be at their best when both return, but in the meantime, it’s up to Clark, MWP, Antawn Jamison and Robert Sacre to pick up the slack, with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Steve Blake – OK, everybody – helping out from the back court.

The Lakers have three more road games to conclude the Grammy trip (@BOS, @CHA, @MIA) before returning home for two games (vs. PHO, vs. LAC) ahead of the All-Star break. Stay tuned.

Howard, MWP Out at Brooklyn; Kobe In

It was a busy Tuesday morning in New York City, as the Lakers learned they’d be without not only Dwight Howard (right shoulder), but also Metta World Peace (suspension), though Kobe Bryant would play through a sprained elbow.

Howard told reporters that while the shoulder he initially injured on Jan. 4 against the Clippers and aggravated at Phoenix last Wednesday had improved slightly, it still hurts and is not something he wants to make worse, so he decided against playing at Brooklyn.

World Peace was suspended for one game without pay for an incident with Brandon Knight during Sunday’s victory at Detroit, leaving the Lakers even more short-handed up front.

Howard and MWP are two of the team’s three most physical players, though the Lakers will have the third in Bryant, who sprained his right elbow while dunking on Knight but will start against Brooklyn, one of the NBA’s more physical squads.

World Peace will be available for Thursday’s game at Boston, while Howard remains a question mark.

Howard a Game-Time Decision for Pistons

The Lakers released an injury update on Dwight Howard on Friday afternoon, detailing his plan to fly from Minneapolis to Los Angeles in order to receive a PRP procedure from Dr. Steven Yoon, then rejoin the team in Detroit on Saturday.

Indeed, Howard had the injection on Saturday morning and subsequently got on a plane destined for Detroit, where the team practiced at the Pistons’ arena prior to Howard’s arrival.

Howard is officially listed as a game-time decision for Sunday’s 10 a.m. PST game against Detroit (18-29), who has won 3 of 4 home games and just acquired Jose Calderon from the Raptors while sending mainstay Tayshaun Prince to Memphis.

Howard dominated Detroit in L.A.’s first victory of the season, a 108-79 blow out on Nov. 4 at Staples Center in which he made 12 of 14 shots towards 28 points with three blocks and seven boards.

The Lakers beat Minnesota 111-100 on Friday night without their starting center, as Pau Gasol put up a 22-point, 12-rebound, 3-block effort in Howard’s absence, while Kobe Bryant helped out on the glass as well with 12 boards of his own.

They’d gone 0-3 without Howard in the three games he missed early in January (at HOU, at SAS, vs. OKC), though Gasol was also out of those games.

Howard To Start vs. Cleveland

After missing three games because of a torn labrum in his shoulder, Dwight Howard will start vs. Cleveland.

Howard originally suffered the injury in L.A.’s loss at the Clippers on Jan. 4, but re-injured the shoulder against Denver.

In those three games – all losses – Laker opponents have averaged 116.3 points, while shooting 51.6 percent from the floor.

Injury Update: Gasol, Hill and Howard

The Lakers went through a tough Texas two-step without their top three big men, as Dwight Howard (shoulder), Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (hip) could only watch losses to Houston and San Antonio.

When will they respectively return?

Gasol saw Dr. Vern Williams on Thursday, and while the Spaniard showed improvement, he is still not cleared to play basketball. Gasol will be examined once again on Friday morning, in advance of the team’s Friday evening home game against Oklahoma City.

Howard told reporters before Tuesday’s game in Houston that he’s hoping to return soon, and will not need surgery, for his shoulder injury. However, the team does not want him to rush back and risk further injury.

“(The doctor) doesn’t want me to continue to aggravate it every night, because that could cause problems later on in the season,” Howard said. “Or it could come to the point where somebody fouled me hard enough and it could (further injure the shoulder), so (we don’t) want that to happen.”

Howard will be re-evaluated next week, but he’s definitely out for Friday’s game against the Thunder.

Jordan Hill will also be re-evaluated early next week after an MRI earlier this week revealed a small tear to the labrum of his left hip. He’ll be treated conservatively, according to the team.

In the meantime, we’ll see more Robert Sacre and Earl Clark, who both offered bright spots on the two-game trip in relief duty. Clark, with his career-high 22 points and 13 rebounds, may have just played his way into the rotation even when all three bigs return.

Mamba vs. D12! (Not)

This is how Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard handled reports of a locker room incident between the two of them that never actually occurred:

Using the @KobeBryant Twitter handle he started on Friday (already up to 587,000+ followers), Bryant sent the picture out moments before dismissing any notion of an altercation to assembled media members.

@DwightHoward retweeted the photo from his own Twitter handle moments later, agreeing with teammate Steve Nash that the supposed tiff between him and Bryant was merely something at which to laugh. Howard, however, will miss at least one week due to an injury to the right shoulder that he’s icing in the photo before being re-evaluated.