Will Free Throws Finally Free Dwight?

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HANG TIME, Texas — It’s often been said that living well is the best revenge.

So there was Dwight Howard looking like a cross between a Kardashian and a member of the British royal family in rolling to 39 points and 16 rebounds during his boo-filled return to Orlando.

What’s more, he appeared loose, unagitated and as happy as Henry VIII at a smorgasbord when the Magic sent him to the line for an all-you-can-eat menu of 39 free throws, from which he 16 of 20 in the second half.

Which leaves us to wonder if it will now, finally, ever click to the mercurial big man that all he has to do is to shut up and play?

There is no reason for Magic coach Jacque Vaughn to apologize for the strategy, for Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni to complain or for NBA commissioner David Stern to again ponder a rule change.

Like so much else with Howard’s perpetually conflicted life and career, the problem has always been of his own creation. He is the one with the career .577 free-throw percentage and for all the talk about work in the weight room or getting one-on-one tutoring from Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, has been solidly consistent with his horrid stroke, rarely deviating far from the mean.

If you’re an opposing coach, why wouldn’t you exploit that hole in an All-Star’s game? It’s no different than giving a poor shooter open jumper after open jumper until he learns to knock it down.

If you’re Howard’s coach, why wouldn’t you practically salivate at the thought of your center getting 20 free throws in a half if he can step up and make 80 percent of them?

Howard could have stomped and fumed and moped and blamed his plight on someone else, the way he has with most events of the past two seasons. From former coach Stan Van Gundy to Magic management to Kobe Bryant’s prodding to D’Antoni’s offense to Pau Gasol to unrealistic fan expectations to the media, he’s been a self-made tempest in his own teapot. Just last week he disparaged his old Orlando teammates and then complained at everyone’s reaction to what he said.

It would have been straight in line with the persecuted image that Howard has constructed for himself to flap his arms, howl at the moon and hang his head each time the Magic committed another foul and sent him back to the line.

Instead Howard just shut up and played and enjoyed a night in the kind of career and life of which most people only dream.

He should try it more often.

Top 8 free throw attempts in a single game

Dwight Howard (Lakers): 39 FTA
Date: March 12, 2013

Dwight Howard (Magic): 39 FTA
Date: Jan. 12, 2012

Shaquille O’Neal (Lakers): 31 FTA
Date:
Nov. 19, 1999

LeBron James (Cavs): 28 FTA
Date: March 12, 2006

Shaquille O’Neal (Heat): 28 FTA
Date: Jan. 14, 2005

Shaquille O’Neal (Lakers): 28 FTA
Date: Mar. 14, 2002

Karl Malone (Jazz): 28 FTA
Date: Jan. 8, 1996

Willie Burton (Sixers): 28 FTA
Date: Dec. 13, 1994

12 Comments

  1. iSHAQ or SHAQTOLOGY says:

    TYSON CHANDLER for DWIGHT HOWARD… trade on summer….

  2. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Love the way Howard got (what was it?) 39 FTA.

    Then, today against Atlanta (without Josh Smith and Jeff Teague), Howard is 0-3 from the FT line.

    Something doesn’t add up. Something doesn’t add up.

    Was this a surreptitious message?

    Orlando let the Lakers win World Championship in 2009?????

    Fixed??? Orlando was the real World Championship team in 2009???

  3. sports fan says:

    Ross, you’re among most non-professsionals who can shoot better free throws than Howard & Shaq. BUT I’m sure your free throw percentage would be lower than 80% if you were on the road in front of a large crowd in a pro arena. Ewing, Olajuwon, & Yao Ming are centers who had an outside shot, which helped with their free throws, Howard & Shaq do not. History shows that there are a lot of players who just aren’t good at free throws. Not all great players can be without a weakness.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Too bad not everyone can be like the mighty OKC Thunder.

      They are right on pace to have another chance to tie or break the Celtics’ record for Team FT% regular season. If they can end the season on, say, an 84% clip, they’ll have the record.

      GO THUNDER! You can still get that #1 seed!

      Spurs beat the Thunder … but lose to the T-Wolves and Blazers this past week?

      Something doesn’t add up. Something doesn’t add up. Or maybe it does.

      Strategy. The Thunder have the flexibility to see what is “broken” so they can fix any potential problems in the future.

  4. Ross says:

    What I don’t understand…
    I’m nowhere near a pro and I hit 80% of my free throws?
    Come on, high school hoops practice?

  5. amitpal bains says:

    Everyone blames howard on the way he has handled this whole situation. if u compare it to how lebron handled this situation Howard is doing a much better job than lebron ever did. Most of b lame Howard is getting isnt even fair. Even stan van gundy said the way the whole magic organization handled everything was terrible. And Dwight is supposedly the one who got him fired.

  6. Stan says:

    I welcome Dwights honesty with the media he is a breath of fresh air in L.A. and seems to be adjusting to the good life in California with the greatest franchise. The Lakers have a great starting team but their bench is weak now that Hill is injured, and the coach is not very creative in using his best bench player Devin Ebanks who is not getting any playing time. Devin Ebanks was playing great ball until D’Antoni came on board. Why not use your best on ball defender off the bench in Ebanks? D’Antoni has never put Devin in the game. Phil Jackson used to sub offense for defense in the last few minutes of games, but D’Antoni just leaves the same people in no matter what. I have to agree with Mitch Kupcheck when he say Quit picking on Dwight and getting your print from his shortcommings or the Lakers losing. Dwight is playing great, giving that he had to overcome back sergery and a shoulder injury. He is the best center in the game today and will be for the the next 5 years.

    • Mytownla says:

      Lol WTF are you tlaking about fool? What sport are you actually watching? Who really complains about Devin Ebanks of all the poeple not getting any burn? Like really? Ebanks? And Jordan Hill is a great player, i love his development as a player who provides energy, but he is not the anchor of the Lakers bench as you put it lil homie. But seriously, Devin, Ebanks, smh lol

  7. dj rgm9 says:

    Clearly that’s because he’s victim of the hack a Dwight strategy,nothing more nothing less! The nba media always blowing things up,Let’s watch tonite’s game vs Atlanta how things works out.Forza Lakers!

  8. W/E says:

    He is still a hopeless 50% free throw shooter. one game he makes 15 the other misses 15 so no point to discuss what we already know about Howard.