Dwight Howard needs to make like a mime and stop talking.
In the midst of such disparity, though, there have been two constants: Howard's mouth and his attitude, both of which have presented unnecessary distractions for the Lakers. And it's now officially out of control.
Most were prepared to initially chalk Howard's struggles up to his health. As the big man himself pointed out earlier in the season, he wasn't supposed to return to the court until January (via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times):
Dwight Howard has a message for anybody criticizing him.
The Lakers center wanted to remind everybody he was still not 100%.
"I wasn't even supposed to be playing until January and I'm playing now. What do you expect?"
Not so slowly, his "reminders" became excuses.
Howard tore the labrum in his right shoulder and was suddenly forced to play through even more pain, a reality that he won't let anyone forget (via Eric Adelson of Yahoo! Sports):
On his first trip down the court, Dwight Howard felt Miami Heat players grabbing at his injured right arm.
"They got me early," he told Yahoo! Sports in the quiet of the Lakers locker room after Sunday's 107-97 loss. "They would yank it back."
Howard said the Bobcats did the same thing in Charlotte Friday night – even worse, in fact.
"It's like a jolt," he said. "Then it hurts the rest of the night."
The pain is clearly excruciating for Howard. Battling a back and shoulder injury is no easy feat. But there's no need to remind us incessantly of it. We already know.
By continuously drawing our attention to his physical state, Howard isn't earning the respect of anyone. He comes across as evasive and unwilling to accept blame for his performances. It's like he's run out of teammates and coaches to point fingers at so he's now pointing them at his limbs.
To accuse opposing teams of going after your shoulder is a serious accusation; to imply that the Miami Heat and Charlotte Bobcats are targeting your shoulder like they're playing for the New Orleans Saints is something you can't easily come back from.
Did it ever dawn on Howard that his shoulder has become collateral damage as a result of the hack-a-Howard escapades? Did it ever occur to him that if he made more than 49.5 percent of his free throws, his shoulder (and the rest of his upper body) wouldn't be at as high a risk?
Kobe Bryant would have us believe otherwise, but the theatrics plaguing the Lakers are very real. Too real. At the heart of them is Howard, who attempts to disguise any personal shortcomings by deflecting blame to his shoulder, Mike D'Antoni and the box score, among other things.
This isn't an isolated incident with Howard. It's not even a secluded topic. He's complained about everything from his physical well-being to the number of shots he isn't taking.
Perhaps Dwight's finest moment (kidding) came after a loss to the Chicago Bulls in which he attempted just five shots.
Per Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, he essentially paraded around the locker room, stat sheet in hand, pointing to those five shots:
After the game he brought a stat sheet around the locker room to show some teammates and reporters how he got only five field-goal attempts ... a few minutes before the demoted Gasol spoke gracefully across the room about "not pointing fingers, owning up to our responsibilities, wanting to get out of this and having the pride necessary that it takes to utilize our talents and go beat the opponent – no matter who it is, no matter where we are."
There isn't room for that type of behavior in Los Angeles. There isn't room for such a forlorn demeanor anywhere. That it is taking place inside a market where everything is magnified to no end only makes it worse.
Howard hasn't earned the right to complain about his touches. In part because he was brought in primarily to grab rebounds and play defense, but mostly because he clearly doesn't know what's best for him or his team. If he did, he wouldn't be chiding everyone and everything but himself.
He also wouldn't be making requests (bordering on demands) that make absolutely no sense.
I point you to the Lakers' loss at the hands of the New York Knicks back in December. Howard specifically mentioned that he needed the ball in the post to be effective, not off pick-and-rolls (via Ding):
He said specifically after the Dec. 13 loss in New York that he likes the ball in the post, not via pick-and-roll plays – a logical reason he was so interested in the Lakers hiring Phil Jackson, the man who made Shaquille O'Neal a champion. On Monday night, Howard dwelled again on the individual negative after not getting many inside touches early on while Mike D'Antoni made an honest attempt to coach from the heart – benching Pau Gasol and investing anew in the pick-and-roll game the Lakers hired him to teach, however misguided that might be with the personnel as is.
Dwight's belief that he needs the ball in the paint is absurd. He's not effective when posting up.
Per Synergy Sports, nearly one-half (46.1 percent) of Howard's offensive touches come in the form of post-ups. Within those sets he's shooting just 45.5 percent and averaging 0.75 points per possession, 92nd-most in the league.
Those pick-and-roll plays that Howard despises don't present the same dilemma. He's converting on 74.1 percent of his shots as the roll man off pick-and-rolls and presently ranks 14th in the Association with 1.19 points scored per possession. Yet just over 11 percent of his touches come as the roll man.
Plenty of blame can be attributed to D'Antoni. As the team's head coach, he needs to put Howard in his place and explain the facts. But the center's active rejection of what's actually effective is on him and an emblem of just how far he still has to come.
Even with Bryant still lacing up every night, Howard is supposed to be a leader of his team. And leaders don't lament over their health (excessively), offer excuses, displace blame or discredit what's working.
Only so much slack can be cut for Howard at this juncture. Empathy wouldn't be out of the question had Howard been hurting yet willing to do whatever it takes to win.
Had he fought off the monotonous urge to complain, our perception of him wouldn't be what it is now; few would be postulating that he has a "loser's mentality."
But here we are. Howard continues to bewail over just about everything and has, once again, turned into a one-man sideshow.
Oh, and the Lakers are still fighting for their postseason lives. We can't afford to forget about that.
Not when Howard's superfluous dramatics suggest he already has.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com unless otherwise noted.
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