It's panic time for some in L.A.
A lot of suggestions for fixing the Los Angeles Lakers are being bandied about right now. One that shouldn't ever come up is the idea that Lakers should bench Dwight Howard in crunch time because he struggles at the free-throw line.
I don't dispute that he's a liability at the line. He absolutely is. As a Lakers fan, I would be terrified every time Dwight gets sent to the charity stripe in a one-and-one situation because he's going to leave points on the board.
However, free throws are the only weakness in Dwight's game. He brings so much more to the table than he takes off it. His value is such that he should never come off the floor in any situation in which he wouldn't normally come out (e.g. rest, foul trouble).
And when it comes to crunch time, Dwight needs to stay in the game. You don't take MVP-caliber superstars out of any game that's hanging in the balance. Games are won on both ends of the floor, and Howard is the most dominant defensive player in the game. There are no free throws involved in rebounding and blocking shots.
As for the offensive side of the ball, Howard is sharing the court with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. It's not like the Lakers are going to be pounding the ball to Dwight possession after possession. Howard probably isn't even one of the first two options on any given play.
When he is involved in the offense in crunch time, it can be in pick-and-roll situations. That means when he gets the ball, he will have space to finish instead of having defenders swarmed all over him ready to hack. And if he does get fouled, he will likely be on his way up to the rim, giving himself a chance to make the basket and get the extra free throw.
The bottom line is that Dwight Howard is far too valuable to come out of a game in crunch time, regardless of his struggles at the free-throw line. Mike Brown may not be the best coach in the league, but even he knows enough not bench Howard for a single second longer than he needs to.