It's certainly not Bryant, that's for sure. He's playing at an MVP pace and executing on both offense and defense.
Which leaves Howard.
The big man has been impressive in the early goings of his tenure with the Lakers. He's averaging 19.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per contest on a career best 61.5 percent shooting.
For those wondering, on the surface, that's spectacular and has allowed the behemoth to post a 22.69 PER on the season.
But it's not enough, mostly because Howard isn't doing enough, and the Lakers are struggling as a result.
To date, Los Angeles' center is attempting 11.3 shots per game, the lowest average number of field goals he's attempted in over five years.
That's not enough. Heck, the 13.4 attempts he jacked up last year with the Orlando Magic wasn't enough.
Howard is a force on the offensive end. He doesn't have much range—all of his offense has come within nine feet of the basket this season—and his free-throw shooting is poor enough to invoke the wrath of Kobe's infamous death stare.
But Howard is a force all the same. If he wasn't, his field-goal percentage wouldn't be so high and he wouldn't be posting 18.4 points per game for his career.
But he's capable of more, and he knows it.
Howard's just choosing to take a backseat on offense, something he himself admitted to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Howard said:
We're almost there. We're almost on the same page. I just tell Kobe, he's always going to attack but always just attack the basket and I'll try to clean up if you miss. We're just learning each other's game. It's going to take some time but we're doing the best we can.
It's endearing to hear that Howard is willing to let Bryant do his thing on offense. It really is. But that doesn't mean Howard has to stand idly by and watch opportunities pass by him, either.
Even in Mike D'Antoni's offense, there's no reason Howard should be taking less shots than Pau Gasol and a mere half a shot more than Metta World Peace. None at all.
Yet that's exactly what's happening in Tinseltown right now.
Howard has attempted less than ten shots five times this season, and the Lakers have gone 1-4 when he has done so, including the four shot massacre that was Los Angeles' loss to the Sacramento Kings.
I don't know about you, but surely the Lakers aren't looking to inevitably pay Howard $100 million to see him attempt just four shots. Ever.
This isn't a matter of preference—it's not that the Lakers would simply like Howard to assert himself on offense. They need him to. Because when he doesn't, they lose. It's that simple.
And Howard needs to get the message. The Lakers are 4-1 when he scores 20 or more points; they're a completely different team when he's involved offensively, so he needs to stay involved.
Given his size, his athleticism and his superior build, it's clear that Howard has not been assertive enough on the offensive end his entire career.
He averaged a career-best 22.9 points during the 2010-11 crusade, attempting just over 13 shots a night.
What would have happened if he took 17 to 20 shots? Would the Magic have won more than 52 games? Would they have avoided a first round playoff exit at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks?
We'll never truly know what could have been in Orlando had Howard become more active offensively. But we still have the ability to find out what can happen in Los Angeles.
I get it. You get it. Kobe gets it. Even D'Antoni gets it. We're just waiting on Howard to catch up. Because once he does, the Lakers will start winning consistently, they'll start winning at a rate and in a fashion they were expected to all along.
All it's going to take is for Howard to—for the first time in his career—actualize his offensive on more than a few occasions.
All it's going to take for the Lakers to become an instant powerhouse is for him to become more self-involved on the offensive end.
And if Howard truly fancies himself a leader, if he truly believes himself to be the face of the Lakers' future, that's exactly what he'll need to do.
Lest he be content with under-performing as his team fails to contend for a title.
All stats in this article are accurate as of November 22nd, 2012.
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