There’s a multitude of reasons why the Los Angeles Lakers have played poorly. Chemistry has been a problem, as have the injuries to Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. Now, Kobe Bryant is making public statements about the severity of Howard’s injury. It’s a bad situation that looks to be getting worse.
The Lakers have a mediocre record of 23-26. However, they sit just three games behind the Houston Rockets for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Their season is by no means “lost,” but they’re doing an excellent job of making things harder on themselves.
Everyone knew that Howard was (and is) an emotional guy. He doesn’t handle public criticism all that well. It’s not a knock on him, it’s just a personality trait that some people have. With that said, the Lakers would be better served to tread lightly around him.
Instead, Bryant had this to say to Stephen A. Smith of ESPN.com.
“We don’t have time for (Howard’s shoulder) to heal. We need some urgency. Dwight worries too much about what people think. He just wants people to like him. He doesn’t want to let anyone down.”
Now, some people respond positively to this kind of leadership. Howard is not one of those people. He plays much better with a smile on his face, when he’s able to kick back and have a good time. The Lakers aren’t about that and never will be.
All this does is ratchet up the pressure. Howard doesn’t play well under those circumstances and at this point in his career, it’s just not who he is. He needs to be in his comfort zone to produce.
While some of this criticism may be warranted (all players play with pain at some point), most of the knocks simply aren’t fair and serve no purpose.
Take a look at Howard’s stat line. He’s having a very good season. The bulk of the blame is falling on him, but it’s really not fair.
It’s one thing to question his toughness when he’s sitting out game after game. But, Howard has played 43 of 49 games. Only Bryant and Metta World Peace have played more minutes. It’s not as if he’s been watching from courtside every night.
The biggest problem the Lakers face right now is their defense. Howard has been well above average in that regard. Synergy Sports has him ranked as the No. 9 defender, allowing only .67 points per possession.
In post-up situations, where he is 31.1 percent of the time, he’s ranked No. 4, giving up just .5 points per possession. The myth that Howard is having a bad season or that he’s been a bad addition is simply maddening.
Bryant and the Lakers should realize that the second-best player on the team is Howard. Part of team chemistry is knowing how to handle and react to other players. Even though they know better, the Lakers and Bryant are ignoring that fact and it’s going to cause them to miss the playoffs.
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