Dwight Howard Must Improve Free-Throw Shooting for Lakers to Contend

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Dwight Howard Must Improve Free-Throw Shooting for Lakers to Contend
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Before Steve Nash rejoins the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard needs to improve his free-throw shooting for L.A. to contend for an NBA title.

I don't care if he spends three hours after practice at the free-throw line or sees a sports psychologist to help him envision hitting at least 50 percent of his foul shots, but something must change.

Howard is shooting a dismal 47 percent from the charity stripe, making an average of five free throws in 11 attempts per game.

Legion Sports helps put D-12's horrific free-throw performance into perspective:

More importantly, opposing teams are now utilizing the "hack-a-Dwight" method to beat the Lakers, and it's working out pretty well for them (Orlando game, anyone?).

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Teammates Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash have attempted to offer the struggling big man some advice from the line, but Howard wants no part of it, according to ESPN's Dave McMenamin:

My mind cannot get clouded with everybody telling me how to shoot a free throw. I just have to go up there and shoot it my way and not get caught up in what everybody else is saying, because that's when I miss.

No, Dwight, you miss whenever you attempt a shot from the foul line.

Howard would be wise to listen to Bryant and Nash, as they both shoot better than 83 percent from the line for their careers, with Nash coming in with a 90.4 mark, which ranks tied for the highest free-throw percentage in NBA history, per ESPN.

Bryant thinks Howard's struggles are due to how he was taught the game when he was younger, saying:

I think it all depends on how you're raised, how you're taught the game from when you were little. I think that's why it's such a critical thing in how we develop our players growing up, whether it's AAU and all these other camps...I think they pretty much wanted (Howard) to play inside the paint his entire career, ever since he was 12 years old. They wanted him to dunk everything and finish everything at the rim. They didn't want him shooting it because he was bigger than everybody and as a consequence, they left out the shooting aspect of his game.

Harry How/Getty Images

Kobe may be right, but the past is the past and if the Lakers make the playoffs, they may need to address the idea of removing Howard in the fourth quarter of close games.

Teams are obviously beginning to key in on Howard's inadequacy at the charity stripe and you can bet they'll take advantage of that down the stretch when an NBA championship is on the line.

It may not seem like that big of a deal right now, but poor free-throw shooting is resulting in Lakers losses, as Bryant noted: "We've lost ballgames where we've missed 19, 20, 17 free throws and end up losing a game by five or six points. So, that's really shooting ourselves in the foot."

Indeed, Los Angeles is shooting themselves in the foot by missing free throws and it's Howard who's holding the gun.

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