Dwight Howard shot eight-of-16 from the free throw line in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 107-105 loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night. He shot nine-of-21 in their 113-103 loss to the Orlando Magic before that. He shot three-of-12 in their 79-77 loss to the Indiana Pacers before that.
Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
When you have a player who is shooting 42 percent from the free throw line over his last five games, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that you may want to minimize the amount of time he spends at the free throw line. And when you see that teams are purposely hacking him just to get him to the charity stripe, it would certainly seem to be a smart move to maybe take him out of the ballgame for a little bit.
Mike D’Antoni, the genius that he is, doesn’t want to do that, though. When asked why he won’t listen to people who say that he should bench Howard for a few minutes in the fourth, this was his reply:
"Because they have no clue what they're talking about," D'Antoni said. "It's pretty simple. You don't do that to a guy and he made his foul shots. He's not the reason that our defense breaks down. He's not the reason that stuff happens. He's got to work through this.
"If you take him out now, then what are you going to do? Are you going to take him out all the time? You've got a player who's going to be your franchise player, you don't do that to him. And it's not him that's causing the problem."
D’Antoni is partially right. The defense is a problem. And Howard isn’t to blame for the defense being atrocious, D’Antoni is. Unfortunately, D’Antoni doesn’t have the power to fire himself for being a horrendous defensive coach that refuses to acknowledge that he is a horrendous defensive coach. Therefore, we have to fix what ails Howard instead. And you fix what ails Howard by minimizing the amount of time he spends on the court when teams are free to foul him at will.