The newest superstar addition to the Los Angeles Lakers may be falling in love with the City of Angels while putting up All-Star caliber numbers, but Dwight Howard remains a big liability at the free-throw line for this team built to be a championship contender.
Although Howard’s 18.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game are impressive stats and better than anticipated for a player coming off back surgery, the career-low 46 percent from the charity stripe is killing this team in close games down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
Earlier in the season, Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person claimed that Howard’s free-throwing shooting in practice and during scrimmages was above 80 percent and was bound to improve during games, but it has only gotten worse with opposing teams catching on and the Hack-a-Howard strategy working to perfection.
Not only is the Hack-a-Howard technique slowing down this new style of offense implemented by head coach Mike D’Antoni, but it might be starting to chip away at Howard’s confident as the season progresses. If the strategy continues to work, Howard will be at the line more often then not and will likely cost the Lakers many games down the road if he can’t turn it around in the near future.
Howard does have a case in terms of claiming that the team’s defense in general is the main reason they’re giving up leads in the fourth quarter, but his poor free-throw shooting has also taken its toll. In the last two losses to the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets, Howard missed a combined 20 shots at the free-throw line in 37 attempts.
That’s simply not going to get it done and drastic change is needed to erase the liability at the charity stripe moving forward.
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