Much of the focus on the Lakers' slow start has been centered on the Princeton offense, but that has been far from their biggest concern. This actually works out well for them because Dwight Howard's return to game speed after a lengthy layoff is going to help alleviate the Lakers' biggest concern: the defense.
The Lakers are ninth in the league in points scored and 19th in points allowed, and that points allowed number would be much worse were it not for the Lakers last game, their lone victory on the season, when they held the Pistons to 79 points.
In that game, Dwight Howard began to look like the man whose freakish athletic ability made him such a highly sought after trade target.
It was easy to see. Howard was moving more fluidly and much more quickly. This allowed him to cover more ground and be a far more effective defensive player.
CBS' Matt Moore actually found a few YouTube videos that capture his acclimation to game speed. The first comes from the Lakers' clunker in the opener against the Mavericks.
Notice how slow he is to recover back towards the hoop. Now, take a look at this clip from the Pistons game.
He looks like a completely different player, and that is the player the Lakers were expecting.
Howard is key to the Lakers' defense.
The Lake Show hasn't had a point guard who could slow down an opposing point guard since Derek Fisher was a much younger Derek Fisher.
That has only gotten worse with the addition of Steve Nash. The Lakers need an astute and athletic defender to clean up all the trash the Lakers point guards readily let through.
This helps to not only limit easy buckets at the rim, but will also tighten up the rotation on defense.
Last year, the Lakers never knew if Andrew Bynum would make the right read to stop penetration. Howard is a far more consistent and reliable presence. This will allow the rest of the Lakers defense to stay on their assignment instead of constantly keeping an eye out to help on the point guard.
It is time to let go of the panic button, Lakers fans; this team is going to be just fine. Dwight Howard's defense ensures it.
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