Dwight Howard's Toxic Chemistry with Steve Nash Is Holding LA Lakers Back
Not even its team-first floor general, Steve Nash.
Nash's frustrations boiled over during the Lakers' 107-97 loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday, Feb. 10. As Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register observed, Nash and Howard yelled at each other over a missed opportunity to get the big man a point-blank look.
In Nash's view, Howard didn't work himself into an open passing lane when the point guard was trapped on the baseline by Miami's Udonis Haslem. In Howard's opinion, he was open next to the basket, and Nash simply missed an easy assist.
This wasn't the first time the Lakers' biggest two offseason acquisitions have butted heads this season. But, perhaps due to the team's continued struggles, this seemed to have a greater effect on Nash.
And really, why wouldn't it?
The 39-year-old is well-versed in and highly acclaimed for running this very offensive system. He and coach Mike D'Antoni pushed the Phoenix Suns to the brink of the Western Conference with an inferior supporting cast.
Howard should be the ultimate piece for D'Antoni's offense: a 6'11", 265-pound athletic specimen capable of planting pursuing defenders with a solid screen and exploding to the basket for the kind of highlight finishes Nash used to set up for Amar'e Stoudemire.
Yet there's an obvious disconnect between point guard and center. And it's one that has nearly derailed the Lakers' championship hopes long before the postseason has even started.
In Howard's defense, he's not the only one responsible for the Lakers' struggles. Whatever issues he's experienced offensively will never match the defensive issues presented by tasking Nash with defending today's speedy, athletic point guards.
With lingering ailments in both his back and his shoulder, perhaps Howard has been overexerted on the defensive end. Maybe he doesn't have enough in his reserves to plant the physical screens that drive this offense and explode off those picks for point-blank shots.
But as hollow as the arguments behind Howard's pleads for more involvements have seemed to us, one can only imagine how they resonate with his teammates.
Will the Lakers recover in time to make the playoffs?
Nash is a pass-first point guard and has been one throughout his career. He wants to involve Howard, because he understands that this team's championship dreams will stay grounded as long as Howard continues to struggle.
But he knows how to get Howard the types of touches that he craves. He can't force that kind of effort out of his big man; only Howard controls that.
D'Antoni isn't going anywhere, not for this season at least. His hiring only highlighted how highly the front office thinks of Nash and of this offensive system.
Ding's right to point out that the Lakers' season is not over. There are questions surrounding each of the teams standing between L.A. and a postseason berth. And none of those teams can come close to matching the Lakers' collection of talent.
But if that talent can't come together in pursuit of a shared goal, it will go down as the biggest talent blunder in NBA history.
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