Lakers' Dwight Howard Credits Nick Van Exel for Improved Free-Throw Shooting

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers' Dwight Howard in action prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, in Philadelphia. The 76ers won 108-91. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard said Thursday former NBA guard Nick Van Exel helped him develop his new free-throw technique of standing a few feet behind the free-throw line.

"All my shots were, they were long," Howard told reporters after the team's 116-86 win over the Golden State Warriors. "So I just wanted to step back. That way I can follow all the way through on my free throws."

He added: "It's looking a lot better. So I'm pretty sure by the time the playoffs come, I'll be the real cash app."

Howard's free-throw shooting percentage has dropped to a career-low 48 percent during the 2019-20 season, a 12.4-percent drop from last year with the Washington Wizards.

The 34-year-old Atlanta native has shown modest improvement this month, though. He's sitting at 51.2 percent in 10 February games and 60 percent in four appearances since the All-Star break. He made five of his seven attempts from the line Thursday against the Warriors.

As a whole, Howard has enjoyed a strong bounce-back campaign in a limited role for the Lakers. He's averaged 7.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while shooting 74 percent from the field across 57 appearances (two starts). He ranks 21st among centers in ESPN's Real Plus-Minus.

"I'm just grateful," he said in January. "I don't look at the stat sheet. I don't look at anything. I'm just happy to be out there playing basketball. Playing here in L.A. has been such a blessing for me, and I cherish every single moment. So when I'm out there on the floor, can't do nothing but give 135 percent and have fun in the process."

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

The eight-time All-Star will continue to split time with JaVale McGee for the Lakers during the stretch run of the regular season and the playoffs. Whether he can build off his recent uptick in free-throw shooting will be a factor in determining how much he sees the floor in crunch time.

Howard, his unique free-throw approach and L.A. are back in action Saturday night as they make a stop at the FedEx Forum to face off with the Memphis Grizzlies.