The Los Angeles Lakers have had a tumultuous season, and Dwight Howard is the root of the problem for a few reasons. The center has infamously clashed with longtime guard Kobe Bryant, and it doesn’t seem like the two are settling their issues.
Howard’s attitude is not his only problem, though. From his injuries to his foul trouble, there are a few factors negatively affecting Howard’s game. Let’s specify the reasons the Lakers have for moving on from Dwight Howard.
As the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan detailed, “Howard has flagrant-foul problems of his own—[Howard and Metta World Peace] are tied for the league lead with five ‘points’ in the NBA’s penalty system.”
These fouls are problematic because they can and will come back to haunt Howard. If he registers one more flagrant foul, Howard will be slammed with at least a one-game suspension.
Though he’s a force under the boards, the Lakers don’t need a player like Howard whom they can’t count on to control his fouling.
This season, Howard is the new kid on the block, and he seems to be clashing constantly with longtime Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. Most recently, The New York Post reported that Howard poked fun at Bryant in the locker room during the All-Star Game.
According to the Post, “Amid other reports that the Lakers’ chilly on-court chemistry was spilling into the locker room, we’re told that Howard ‘grabbed Kobe’s uniform, put it on, and imitated him in front of all the other players on the West team. He was joking and berating Kobe.’”
The bottom line is, Kobe Bryant has been a star in Los Angeles for a long time, and the Lakers can’t risk compromising Bryant’s play and comfort just to keep a disrespectful player like Dwight Howard around for any longer.
Even worse, Howard appears to have a father who’s willing to fight his battles for him and draw out the drama with Kobe even more. As Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reported on Feb. 9, “Dwight Howard’s father injected himself into his son’s awkward relationship with Kobe Bryant.”
Bresnahan continued, “The elder Howard said his son needed to sit down with Bryant to hash out their differences. He also said Coach Mike D’Antoni wasn’t being assertive enough to handle the situation.”
Undoubtedly, the last thing Kobe Bryant and Mike D’Antoni want to do is listen to Dwight Howard’s father tell them what they need to do and have Dwight be distracted by it. The elder Howard’s involvement in his grown son’s business is inappropriate and most likely a bothersome thorn in the Lakers’ side.
Because of the back surgery he underwent after last season’s end and the torn labrum that plagues him this season, Howard is not in the same shape he was when he played for the Orlando Magic. As a result, he’s not as powerful on the court for the Lakers.
Howard even admitted to his poor conditioning; he told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, “I just know how much more effective I will be when I’m in better shape. And, unfortunately, it’s cost us a lot of games.”
Though he intends to work hard to get his strength back, the fact remains that Howard is not where he used to be. Do the Lakers have time to wait around for Howard to get back into shape? Can they afford to let Howard “cost” them more games?
He’s only 27 years old, but Dwight Howard already has eight years in the NBA and a major back surgery under his belt.
He is no longer the young powerhouse center that he used to be purely because his body has taken a beating from injury. ESPN Los Angeles even reports that Howard is playing through his labrum pain, which certainly won’t help him in the long run.
The strain put on his body shows in his statistics. Though he still grabs rebounds because of his impressive size, Howard has less success in other areas. For example, during the Lakers’ 122-105 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 5, Howard had 16 rebounds but only six points, no assists and no steals.
His points average for this season is also down from his career average. For the 2012-13 season, he is averaging 15.9 points per game, which is nearly three points lower than his 18.2 career points per game average.
Howard is strong in terms of rebounding, but his injuries are holding him back from playing like he used to. The reality is, he may never play as well as he did in Orlando.