HANG TIME WEST — For most any other team at most any other time, this would be a normal reaction to a face-plant start. But with the Lakers in December of 2012, with Dwight Howard and his reputation plus the coaching change and no hope in sight from the return of the player who is supposed to give hope, this is a fresh coat of tension.
The Lakers lost to the Jazz 117-110 on Sunday night in Los Angeles amid obvious frustration from Howard, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, over a lack of support on defense. Howard winced at the fresh memory of Utah scoring 54 points in the paint and 23 on second-chance points. He practically sent out a distress signal.
“Guys have to understand I’m going to try to block shots and I’m going to help as early as I can and I’m going to be there,” Howard said. “We have to get each other’s back.”
And, Kobe Bryant endorsed the frustration, saying, “He should be. He can’t do everything defensively. He’s doing as much as he can, changing shots and the things of that nature. But when teams are getting out in the break and laying the ball up so many times, there’s not much you can do.”
This is about more than the Lakers’ being in the middle of the pack, No. 14, in shooting defense. It is about Howard for starters, because he ran his reputation into a ditch last season and so now every comment, action, hiccup, blink and inhale is viewed through a different prism.
Dwight Howard Frustrated With Teammates!
Fresh off the PR debacle in Orlando, jumping right into the circus in Los Angeles, about to become a free agent -– he should have arrived with a tick… tick… tick soundtrack.
The initial public scrape with Bryant is out of the way, an on-court disagreement during a recent game that quickly passed in favor of some other crisis. The first time Howard lobs anything resembling a negative comment in the direction of coach Mike D’Antoni, look out.
The actual concern for the Lakers? There is solution on this roster for the defense. They can point to the jump start for the offense that will come once Steve Nash returns from a fractured left leg, the reunion of the point guard and his former Suns coach with the up-tempo offense. But Nash’s defense is something no opponent is worried about.
Nash is not expected back for the four-game trip that starts Tuesday in Cleveland and continues to New York (the Knicks), Washington and Philadelphia. At least the end provides a sliver of good feeling. Howard is playing and his 76ers counterpart/Lakers predecessor Andrew Bynum is not. Beyond that, frustration.