Kobe Bryant and Mike D'Antoni Can't Afford to Freeze Out Dwight Howard Any More

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2013

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 7: Kobe Bryant #24 and Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on following a foul against the Boston Celtics during the game on February 7, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Miami Heat 107-97 in a game that can't really be described as a bad loss given the circumstances, but it was just another game where Dwight Howard was used lightly compared to his past.

For the duration of the season there's been an incredible phenomenon going on, as Kobe Bryant has showed off an ability to play a completely different game, leading to heaps of praise along the way.

Meanwhile, Howard has joined a team that he's expected to be the future of, yet they're treating him like the third or fourth option on defense.

I don't want to come across like I'm defending the immaturity, and at times lack of effort, but it's kind of hard to imagine a guy like him accepting that role quietly. He's gone from being the focal point in Orlando, to being the guy who shoots just 10 times a game.

On the one hand you have to imagine that he somewhat expected this, especially when thinking about him playing alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, but expecting the change and accepting the change are two very different things.

Then you can go down the roster and look at the sacrifices that other players have made. Gasol has moved to the bench (before his injury), and Steve Nash is at times nothing more than the league's most underutilized spot-up shooter.

However, the circumstances in which those two guys find themselves in are completely different.

Gasol is the 32-year-old big man who has been nearly traded time after time over the course of the past year, so it should be a bit easier for him to accept a lessened role, which he was fine to do before his injury.

Meanwhile, Nash came to the Lakers to win a championship. It doesn't matter if he's running the point, shooting, coming off the bench or acting as their assistant coach. As long as he's helping the team get better, you've got to imagine that he's going to be happy.

Howard is in a completely different boat. While he wants to help the team as much as possible, it seems that he can best do that when he's more involved, something that the Lakers have failed to do over the course of the season.

Strangely enough, Howard hasn't had a single game in which he shot more than 18 times in a game, something he did regularly with the Orlando Magic throughout his career.

The way the team has been run throughout the season has been a half-assed attempt to spread the ball around, only to devolve back into Kobe shooting nonstop when the game is on the line, or when the Lakers are playing from far behind.

It's a strange trend to watch, and it's something that Mike D'Antoni never tries to slow down; he just lets it happen.

As strange as it may seem, it's time to stroke Howard's ego. He's started to express himself negatively through the media, and as we've seen in the past that can only lead to more negativity coming back to the team.

The Lakers have lost their most talented offensive big man, so it seems as if going down into Howard a bit more, even consistently feeding him at times, is going to give them another dimension to their offense.

Los Angeles is four games below .500, but are actually only 3.5 games behind the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Creating a dominant post presence could be what takes them to another level, potentially propelling him into the postseason.