When Dwight Howard went to the Lakers, he was supposed to be the game-changer on the defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, with Dwight not being at 100 percent yet (and possibly not being there mentally), the Lakers are giving up 100.2 points per game (25th in the league) and have a 102.7 defensive rating (102.7 points per 100 possessions, good for 17th in the league). Not exactly great defensive numbers.
A former coach of Howard’s offered up his assessment. Here’s a report from Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times.
“I don’t think he looks quite as explosive or as quick as he has in the past,” said (Stan) Van Gundy, who coached Howard in Orlando for five seasons before being fired in May. “Now, he’s still above almost everyone in the league at that size athletically, but he has not totally looked like himself to me.”
The way Howard has looked right now (even not at being 100 percent), Stan Van Gundy’s work in Orlando has looked even more impressive. Dwight Howard won Defensive Player of the Year three times when he was with Orlando. Under Van Gundy’s guidance and Howard’s defensive domination, the Orlando Magic went to the Eastern Conference Finals two years in a row and made the NBA Finals in 2009.
More from Van Gundy:
Van Gundy cited Howard’s back surgery in April and a diminished role in the offense as the biggest triggers for his rough start.
“It’s a big adjustment for him going from being the guy to not only being the No. 2 guy but really a No. 2 guy that really doesn’t get the ball very much at all,” Van Gundy said. “It’s a different deal and an adjustment he has to make. Those kind of things take time.”
Dwight is averaging 17.6 points (lowest since 2006-07) and 11.8 boards (lowest since 2004-05, his rookie year). While Howard is still putting up good numbers, it’s obvious he’s still not himself. At times, it seems like he’s just cruising out there, which has raised the ire of Coach Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni said that when Howard got ejected against Denver, they didn’t “lose much.”
Still, the former Magic coach isn’t too worried.
Van Gundy suggested that Howard needed to tweak his game like Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did after becoming teammates with LeBron James.
In other words, don’t expect to score as much.
“I think Dwight is going to be more than willing to make the adjustment,” Van Gundy said, “but it’s still an adjustment and it takes time mentally too because your ego — and ego is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing, you need it to be great in this league — tells you that you’re supposed to be the man and having to adjust to playing off somebody else is not an easy thing.”
“I think he’s getting ready to have a great year and you’ve got to have some patience, which is not a thing that fans really have in abundance and I understand that,” Van Gundy said. “I think if they can stay healthy, by late January you’ll have a pretty good indication of whether or not things are working.”
Laker fans are certainly hoping for the same thing from Dwight. If he played like he did against Portland, then there would be less talk about being compared to Kosta Koufos.
In the meantime, the Lakers are off for the rest of the calendar year and don’t play until the first of the year when they face the Sixers at Staples Center. They beat Portland at home on Friday night, when the Lakers retired Jamaal Wilkes’ jersey.