Dwight Howard Will Finally Be Himself with Steve Nash at Helm of LA Lakers

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIDecember 24, 2012

December 22, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash (10, left) and center Dwight Howard (12, right) look on during warm ups before the game against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

With Steve Nash at the helm of the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard will finally be himself.

When a player is averaging 17.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.6 blocks and 1.1 steals, it is difficult to say that they're struggling. When they're shooting 57.4 percent from the floor, that stance becomes even more difficult to defend.

The fact of the matter is, numbers don't tell the story here. D-12 hasn't been himself.

Whether physically or schematically, Howard has not been able to perform at the level expected of him. A major reason for this truth has been the lack of team chemistry and an up-tempo offense that does not support his recovery process.

According to Sam Amick of USA Today Sports, Howard has not yet reached 100 percent after receiving back surgery earlier this season.

"I'm still in that process," Howard said in an extensive interview with USA TODAY Sports at the team's practice facility. "People don't understand that. They just come out and see me make a couple dunks and blocks and say, 'Oh, he's back.' But it does take a while for all this stuff to heal. This is not something easy, so I understand that. It will come."

Fortunately, Howard will be in a position to thrive alongside Steve Nash.

Nash is a master at knowing his teammates' tendencies, abilities and limitations. This is why the Lakers have to be encouraged by his return and the impact it will have on Howard.

Specifically how much easier the game will be for D-12.


Defining the Issue

Thus far in 2012-13, the Los Angeles Lakers are allowing an average of 98.5 points per 48 minutes with Dwight Howard on the floor. When he's on the bench, they're allowing 102.5 per 48.

This is a primary example of when the numbers don't tell the full story.

L.A. has been dismal defensively throughout the duration of the season, ranking 22nd in the league in scoring defense. The reason for this is the up-tempo offense that has forced the older Lakers to run with the more athletic legs.

Even as D-12's statistics appear impressive, the quality of his play has not been. Steve Nash solves that.

It's all about tempo.


Controlling the Tempo, Part I: Defense

What makes Steve Nash a future Hall of Fame nominee is simple. There are few players in NBA history that have been as proficient at controlling the pace of a game as "Nashty."

This has a direct impact on the way Dwight Howard plays defense.

The most common misconception about Nash is that he is only capable of running an up-tempo attack. The truth of the matter is, Nash is just as dominant in the halfcourt as he is in the open floor.

So how does this impact the D?

Nash thrives in reading his teammates and placing them in the proper position to get back on defense. Although his history with Phoenix may suggest otherwise, Nash knows that he must place Howard and Metta World Peace to get back in time to make stops.

Thus allowing Howard and company to set up the halfcourt defense.

This will enable Howard to work the paint and build a defensive chemistry with Pau Gasol. Something that had been virtually impossible with both bigs attempting to run the floor at full speed and less than desirable health.

Nash is the ultimate pace-maker.


Controlling the Tempo, Part II: Offense

Steve Nash was brought to Los Angeles to provide the Lakers with instant offense. He'll do just that.

As previously alluded to, the common misconception about Nash is that he is only capable of running the open court. In reality, Nash is just as dangerous in a halfcourt set.

This is why Dwight Howard is set to benefit from his presence.

Nash is a master of the pick-and-roll from a facilitator's standpoint. Howard is, arguably, the best in the NBA at finishing off of the drive.

A match made in heaven.

Even as they run just 15.1 percent of their plays through the pick-and-roll, the Lakers rank fourth in the NBA in terms of points per pick-and-roll play. This is what happens when you have D-12 as your finisher.

Fortunately, Nash is well aware of what coach Mike D'Antoni appeared to miss.

Howard is at his best when the offense is in place and the screen game is developed. This is what Nash is capable of setting up for him, as opposed to the younger or lower caliber point guards on the roster such as Darius Morris and Chris Duhon.

Expect Howard to play close to the basket, finish with efficiency and become the player we know him to be.