“You play with Kobe Bryant you know, he’s going to get them up,” Howard said. “But, at the same time, I have to find ways to still be effective. I can’t allow that to affect how I play. There were a lot of times early in the season where I would get upset you know, because I felt like he shot the ball a lot. And you know, I wanted some touches down low. Do I want touches, yeah. But, whatever I have to do to help this team win, I have to keep my mind in that area.”
This one bounced around the rim a few times before falling in. Credit Dwight for admitting his displeasure with Kobe’s shot selection. Even if he wasn’t explicitly saying it at the beginning of the season, his body language was, so it’s refreshing to see him come clean here. But now it’s one thing to say it, it’s another thing to go out and prove it. He gave a good effort against OKC before re-injuring his should in Phoenix. When Dwight returns, keep an eye on his ability to effect the game in multiple ways. Not just on the offensive end.
“Well with my back you know, it’s not all the way there, 75 percent,” Howard said. “And with my shoulder, it’s day to day. This is the first year recovering off of a back surgery. I really don’t think people understand the severity of the surgery and the injury, and how long it takes to recover.
We’re all aware of what a physical specimen Howard is. He’s one of the few players that you can truly feel his presence on the court even if he’s just standing there. His body is that imposing. Howard is also a player that didn’t miss a game until his fifth season and missed just seven total in his first seven years. So when he says he’s still hurt, I believe it to not just be an excuse.
But at the same time, it is. Howard claims to feel numbness and tingling in his legs even when he’s just sitting down. Whether he would play or not this season was a legitimate question after his surgery. I admire his dedication to being on the court for the season opener, but was it really the right choice?
He’s averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds per game — acceptable — but he’s as inefficient and ineffective as he’s ever been. He has no spring in his jump and no athleticism around the rim, making his already rudimentary post-game even more so. It begs the question: if Dwight sat out until January and came back near 100 percent, would the Lakers be in a better place right now?
“Right now, my only focus is to get us into the playoffs and win the championship,” Howard said. “Nothing else matters at this point.”
If Howard’s idea here is that short-term goals will translate into long-term success, than I’m on board. I’m not sure that he’s earned it, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. The Lakers are 3.5 games out of the playoffs, with two flawed teams — Houston and Portland — in their way.
If the Lakers can put together a 2-1 finish to their seven-game Grammy road trip — at Boston, Charlotte and Miami — they will be sitting at 25-27 with 30 games to play.
Not ideal, but doable.