Why Dwight Howard Won't Have Career Season with the L.A. Lakers
Dwight Howard is the most dominant and athletically gifted center in the NBA today. With that package comes a great deal of hype in the Los Angeles Lakers’ community. Although the team goal of winning a championship seems to be a real possibility, tempering Howard’s individual expectations moving forward seems to be the ideal outlook.
Some would argue that Howard is poised to have a career year in Los Angeles this season when he joins forces with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash. But some key factors could prevent Howard from building upon the gaudy numbers he posted as a member of the Orlando Magic.
While in Orlando, Howard racked up three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards. Over the course of his last five NBA seasons, Howard has never averaged fewer than 2.1 blocks per game. Throughout that same span, Howard averaged fewer than 20 points per game in a season just once and averaged 14 or more rebounds per game in three of the five seasons.
That is certainly a lofty resume that he brings to his new job. However, can Howard repeat that success in a different uniform? More importantly, can he manage to top those numbers en route to a career year?
The answer, at least the early answer, is no for a few reasons.
What is your thought process regarding Howard's back surgery?
First of all, Howard is currently recuperating from back surgery he underwent in April of this year to repair a herniated disk in his lower back. Up to the point of injury, Howard had never played in fewer than 78 games in any of his seven professional seasons before the lockout.
For a guy nicknamed “Superman,” he certainly appeared to have no kryptonite.
However, this injury finally showed that Howard is not invincible. It was certainly a career setback, and missing the 2012 Summer Olympics as a result of his surgery had to sting Howard’s emotions.
A recent article by Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles said multiple sources have told the news outlet that Howard will likely miss the start of next season as he recovers. Missing training camp to get acclimated to his new teammates is one thing, but missing actual regular-season games would be yet another setback.
In addition to the question marks about Howard’s health, he hasn’t played basketball since April 7 (his final game before surgery last season). For a guy as talented and athletic as Howard, this may not be an issue. However, there’s likely to be some rust he has to knock loose before he returns to MVP-caliber form (if he does at all).
Also, Howard will need to figure out a brand new offensive and defensive system under the Lakers’ coaching staff. How Lakers head coach Mike Brown ultimately decides to play the new additions around the core pieces will be a major factor for their success.
Brown took a lot of heat last season for letting Pau Gasol play a more perimeter-oriented game when he’s much more comfortable (and effective) playing down in the post. However, there are already signs that the former NBA Coach of the Year is getting some assistance in the offense department.
According to an article by Michael C. Jones of Yahoo! Sports, the Lakers have hired NBA coaching veteran Eddie Jordan as an assistant. Jordan brings “a thorough knowledge of the Princeton offense,” and should be the offensive mastermind of this squad moving forward.
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On paper, the Lakers are currently one of the best teams in the NBA. Jordan will be under a lot of pressure next season to make that work. If Howard and Co. don’t buy in to his offensive system, it could lead to disaster.
Finally, in what is perhaps the biggest factor preventing Howard from having a career season as he switches coasts is the supporting cast.
Throughout his career, Howard has always been the No. 1 go-to option on his team. With the superstars he has surrounding him in Los Angeles, he’ll have a role entirely alien to him.
Howard has never played with a point guard as dynamic and passing inclined as Steve Nash. The Lakers' new floor general will certainly include Howard in the offensive attack, but Nash knows how to make all of his teammates better by spreading the wealth. Look for an even amount of touches among the stars and even the role players if Nash is given free rein to run the show.
Secondly, Howard has never played alongside a capable post player. The teams in Orlando were built by dumping Howard the ball and kicking the ball out to Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and others for open three-point shots.
Now, Howard will be manning the post with not only a capable post player, but a highly skilled and regarded post man in Pau Gasol. This should be a match made in heaven down in the paint, but as a double-digit rebounder in his own right, Gasol could prevent Howard from putting up his usually extravagant rebounding numbers.
Also, Gasol and Nash will want to establish a good on-court relationship via the pick-and-roll game, which Nash has all but perfected from his years in Phoenix.
Who do you think will lead the Los Angeles Lakers in scoring next season?
Howard will undoubtedly put up great numbers, but with another post presence beside him to shoulder some of the load, Howard’s numbers may take a dip (which is more than OK if the team is winning games).
Finally, Howard has never played with an alpha dog like Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba has been one of the highest-scoring offensive threats in the league for a long, long time. He may not put up 23 shot attempts per game like he did a season ago now that he has a star-studded supporting cast, but he’ll still take away some scoring opportunities from Howard like he did with Andrew Bynum last season.
It’s hard to see Howard building upon his massive Orlando numbers in Los Angeles considering the great band of players he has surrounding him.
Howard will no longer have to carry the team on his back (an action that appears to have caught up with the big man), but he’ll still play an integral role in molding what could be a championship team in 2012-2013.
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