Nothing Ever Free With Howard


VIDEO: The Inside crew discusses Dwight Howard’s game

HOUSTON -- Call it revenge of the snubbed.

When Patrick Beverley’s desperation banker bounced off the side of the rim, it kicked off the kind of gleeful celebration that the Lakers always hoped to have with Dwight Howard on the court.

Instead it came at his expense and it couldn’t have been more sweet and delicious if it were dipped in chocolate.

There was the final image of a leaping Howard closing out way too late on Steve Blake’s game-winning 3-pointer from the left wing.

There were those dozen free-throw attempts that the Lakers gave Howard in the fourth quarter that he might not have had more trouble getting down if he’d been trying to swallow logs.

It was a 99-98 L.A. win in the first week of November that revealed precious little about how Howard’s old team or his new one will look in the meat of the schedule.

But it was an opportunity for the Lakers to exorcise four months of abandonment feelings left by the only high profile star to ever pull up stakes and walk out on the NBA’s most glamorous franchise and it was a night for the Rockets to remember that though they won the $80-million free agent tug ‘o war, their prize doesn’t come without inherent flaws.

“We’ll see them again,” Howard said.

“There’s so many emotions, we’d have to go through and array of stuff,” said Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. “We win on the road the first time. We beat a good team. We played better. I mean, down there somewhere, yeah, I’m human. It’s great (to beat Howard).

“He made his choice, which is good. You’ve got to respect that. He’s fine. They’re gonna have a great team and he’s a great player.”

However, in this game Howard was little more than average, scoring 15 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and looking confined and uncomfortable.

While the Lakers’ entire season — and maybe long-range future — is on hold while they wait on Kobe Bryant’s return from a torn Achilles’ tendon, the Rockets’ ascendancy to the elite category of championship contenders will be slowed by the Achilles’ heel of Howard shooting free throws.

Little has changed over his 10 NBA seasons to make him little more than a coin flip at the foul line and that hasn’t changed at all with the scenery from Orlando to Los Angeles to Houston.

A year ago, as Howard’s coach, D’Antoni chafed at the rules when opponents intentionally fouled his All-Star center when games were on the line.

But with the Rockets wiping out a 19-point Laker lead and riding James Harden’s 35 points to surge in front midway through the fourth quarter, D’Antoni wasn’t at all averse to hacking the big man at every opportunity.

Howard finished up shooting 5-for-16 on free throws for the night and was 5-for-12 in the fourth quarter. From the time the Lakers first hacked Howard with 3:24 left in the game, Harden never scored again.

“I thought it went real well because we took Harden out of the game,” D’Antoni said. “I think it worked pretty good. And he made foul shots. That’s about as good as he’ll do.

“Harden’s tough to guard 1-on-1 and I’d rather have Dwight there instead of Harden. That’s not gonna work all the time.

“That doesn’t mean you’re not gonna use it if it’s out there. I’m not crazy. But if I could change it, I would probably change the rule.”

The Rockets were trying to get to a 5-1 start for the first time since 2007 even though their play at both ends of the floor has been uneven. Once again Howard and his Twin Towers partner Omer Asik struggled to find a way to function effectively on offense.

Howard, for all his athleticism, has never been a guy who could go on the blocks with 1-on-1 moves and create open shots for his teammates. For now, he is again thriving by catching and finishing around the basket, playing for the first time in more than a year without pain from back surgery or a torn labrum in his shoulder.

It was a date that Howard tried not to circle and wanted to treat as just another day on the calendar whenever asked about last year’s rocky marriage with Bryant that had all the charm and warm feelings of a drive-thru chapel in Las Vegas.

In a pregame chat with reporters in which he said he was still several weeks away from taking part in practice, Bryant had actually complimented Howard.

“He always wants to compete with the all-time greats, the Chamberlains, the Shaqs, the Olajuwons,” Bryant said. “This year should be the year when he can start putting up those types of numbers — 25, 26 points a game.”

But as long as there is that gaping hole in his repertoire at the foul line, the question of whether Howard can carry a team all the way will linger. He’s currently shooting a career-low 49.3 percent on free throws.

“You just got to make them,” Howard said. “I was terrible tonight at the line. We just gotta make them pay next time.

“Every loss hurts. Nobody likes to lose. So it’s very upsetting that we lost the way we did.”

56 Comments

  1. Bob M says:

    The Rockets had that game in the bag, until Hack a Howard. The thing that got me was that he was running away from getting fouled, got fouled, put on that famous big smile, and bricked 2 at the line. smh, smh

  2. lol says:

    So bad man so bad…Houston so bad at last the possesions of the game..Harden going solo and miss critical shots, howard total fail at the line all the other Houston players non existent…they need better plays and strategy, Mchale didnt do good either.

  3. GHOST says:

    I think Dwight is going to bring Harden’s game down.

  4. FrankL2010 says:

    This guy just think he is superstar… uhmmm way to go

  5. Pistol says:

    Why should the NBA change the rule? Because a pro basketball player paid $ 20 million a year doesn’t work one of the most fondamental things in this game. Howard has been in the league for 10 YEARS. 10 YEARS! Look at Duncan, the Big Fondamental. He is 37 and works hard every day, shoots hundreds FT. Now he’s 80% on the line. I think every basketball player is able to shoot a least around 65%. Dwight, shut your mouth, go to the gym and hit your free-throws!!!

  6. laker says:

    have fun Rockets ..this is what u will get in close games …hack a howard…this guy has no post moves at all…if he aint dunken he aint scoring..

  7. theking0522 says:

    Look at Lakers fans talking about how great Hack a Howard is. The same whiners that wanted the rule changed last year. I was always in favor of this rule. You have to be able to make your free-throws. Lakers fans, however, are a bunch of whiner hypocrites. There were against this rule last year, and now they are in favor….But hey…They are Lakers fans. What do you expect?

  8. LakerStef says:

    Lakers lost a couple game because of the hack a Dwight last year. glad to see they got their money’s worth. Rockets are the better team. But if Dantoni can improve the rotation giving Johnson and HIll more playing time… and if X henry stops playing like a noob, we could be a threat every night .

  9. Ballin for life says:

    Haha I loved how Howard was quoted saying “Our free throws were terrible tonight” No Dwight, YOUR free throws were terrible tonight. Own up to it and take independent responsibility. When will he grow up :(

  10. NBA Fan says:

    Another year, and still no native ipad video playback on this site.
    same old, same old

  11. Edub says:

    Why should they change the rule? Why reward the guy for not working one of the most basic things in the league. Howard has been in the league 10 YEARS. If players like him, DeAndre Jordan, Reggie Evans, have not made strides to improve their FT shooting % over the years, it’s their fault for not hitting them. This is a Big MANS league, so why change the rule so they are BABIED?

    And it is also Howard’s fault because he can’t remain serious on the court. He hit 4 of 5, and then he starts running from the Lakers’ players and is all smiles. If he had remained serious about hitting the FT’s and realized he needed to step up, this problem would not have happened. After running and laughing, he did not have the same motion or focus like he did to hit the 4/5 FT’s.

  12. LIKEMIKE says:

    Man I could tell Dwight what he’s doing wrong with his free-throws You think after all these years in the NBA somebody would tell him to remember to follow through on his shot.

  13. Tracy says:

    Actually I’m quite surprised that Rockets only lost 2 games for the past 6 games.I thought they could lost 3 to 4 games according to their poor defence.And their offence apparently need more chemical change

  14. elisam90 says:

    Change the rules?? Are you frickin serious??? It’s a damn free throw!! It’s something fundamental… If you have a bad free trow shooter..tskkk… to bad… Sit him on the bench!! But Hack-a-Dwight is not an anti sportmanship strategy… HELLO!! It’s a free throw!! A FREEEEE…THROWWW!! A shot that is free!!!! If he’s a terrible free throw shooter ..well…that’s to bad…GO PRACTICE AND GET BETTER!!!! But the strategy is fair… Stop the clock, and stop the pace of the game, in exchange you get the risk of either reduce your opponent advantage if they miss or giving free points and increase your opponent advantage… If you miss them you lose and if you make them you win…So make the damn free throw!!!

  15. Leeming says:

    I have to say what the Spurs and the Lakers did to Dwight Howard makes the NBA games less interesting. The NBA authority must change this rule to make the NBA games a real game.

    • Bruce says:

      When they were doing it to Howard on the Lakers and to Shaq, you probably cheered it on. Now that he’s on the Rockets, you start with the complaints. If you really want a rule that will fix the cheating on games, how about a review of out-of-bounds plays and being able to reverse a decision and call the correct foul on Harden when he smacked Meeks arm as he blew by him?

    • Lucien Vardeni says:

      Yes. The last 2-3 minutes of the game any other team-mate should be allowed to replace the fouled player at the line !!!
      Like in soccer.

      • jonprisia says:

        really?? any team mate??? so if howard is about to dunk or deep in the post with the ball and opposing team is up by 2 points i cant hack him because they are going to replace him with harden on the line…. that is ridiculous …. what about those other players who practice making 500 freethrows in the gym … maybe they dont have to anymore …. atleast howard will be happy less practice and more joking around and playing dodgeball in the gym instead….thats just silly

    • jonprisia says:

      its part of the game … just like injuries and bad calls… its part of the game …if they dont like hacking or intentional foul then have your best free throw shooters on the floor … make adjustments … thats what it boils down too

  16. PAOLO says:

    LA FOREVER

  17. cdubbb24 says:

    HAHAHA!!

    HACK A HOWARD.. I LOVE IT!! GO LAKERS!!!

    CRYBABY COWARD, YOU SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO KOBE. STOP THINKING EVERYTHING IS A JOKE CAUSE RIGHT NOW, YOU ARE THE JOKE!

    • PAOLO says:

      Tracy McGrady Feels Sorry for Kobe Bryant Watching the Lakers

      With the likes of Nick Young leading the Los Angeles Lakers while Kobe Bryant trains and rehabs from surgery on his Achilles, Tracy McGrady is feeling pity for his old friend:

      Sitting here watching the Lakers, and I feel sorry for my boy Jellybean when he comes back!

      — Tracy McGrady (@Real_T_Mac) October 23, 2013

  18. Cefri says:

    Take that you moron!

  19. Jullia says:

    NBA, please stop trying to make people believe D12 is a superstar center. He is just above the average C.

    • Neil Young says:

      Thank you for saying what everyone not getting paid to be on TV thinks of Howard. Hibbert is the best center without question. Shoots well, has post moves, doesn’t foul much, plays team ball, isn’t narcissistic, and oh yeah, plays outstanding defense. What does Howard really give you other than not fulfilling his potential and whining constantly about everything you can think of?

  20. lakerslakerslakers says:

    so no more end of the world talk for the lakers eh? howard will not be the driving force behind any championship in houston. that man would be james harden. howard is just a piece of the puzzle, a help on the boards. he is no way anywhere near a shaq or hakeem. he can blame orlando and kobe and d’antoni for his horrible free throws. by now nobody cares. all he wants is love right?

  21. ballplayer/22 says:

    i know D HOWARD is a nice guy funny an all but it wont win him a championship i know it’s just a few games but it looks like the same old Dwight Howard this is a mans league an people are mad at Kobe for not allowing this clown to turn his team into a comedy show if im a five time champion i wouldn’t care for you either no this is not about KOBE an the Lakers but about a guy who has all the talent but no focus it’s true HARD WORK BEATS TALENT WHEN TALENT DOESN’T WORK HARD! stop being a clown an start being the BEAST on the court you can be its not to late but a change has to come leave the jokes an the funny guy off the court an DOMINATE Super Man or should i say Super Man 2

  22. LA!!!!!!!!!!!! says:

    hahahahahhahahahahahahah! LA! trash!

  23. Zacula says:

    “We’ll see them again,” Howard said.

    Ok…. in the meantime work on your free throws so you can at least earn some of what you are paid.
    The Rockets took a major step back…. it’s too bad, they really did have a very good team with a lot of upside without this comedian.

  24. Beeen says:

    Seriously, they need to change the rules. Tons of other stuff are done to make the games more attractive to the crowd. How does THAT not ruin what could have been a thrilling last couple of minutes ?
    And hey, cut me some slack, I’m new at this, but why don’t they take him out of the game ? Does he bring so much on defense that the coach would rather watch this than a real BB game ? If they can’t get more than .6 points per possession for the last 2-3 minutes then it’s hard to score more than the opponent, no matter how good you are defensively… No ?

    • heat fan since 02 says:

      It’s early in the season, and the coach figures if Howard suffers through this now, maybe he’ll work harder at his free throw shooting and maybe he’ll get used to the pressure. But it seems like he just keeps getting buried in that hole of no confidence. If it continues (which it probably will) later on McHale will probably begin to bench him when it affects the team.
      And I get where you’re coming from with changing the rules, since it makes it boring and drawn out, and it doesn’t feel like a true win, but changing the rules to a degree that would help Howard demeans a fundamental part of the game: free throw shooting. That would be like making a rule that any three point shot that hits the rim should count because it makes the game more exciting, although that example’s ridiculously exaggerated. Sorry.
      Howard needs to make the free throws. He gets paid millions and he has the talent to be a top 3 player in the league. At this point it should be Lebron, Durant, Howard. Stop trying to let him off the hook. “He’s too talented to be average.”

  25. Lucien Vardeni says:

    1/ When the Lakers started to foul Howard, leaving him in the game was a very poor decision of Mchale.
    2/ This strategy is so contrarian to “fair play” and “sportsmanship”, it will certainly contribute to the dwindling popularity of the NBA. I for one am disgusted to watch any such game.
    3/ The best remedy is to introduce a new rule: during the last 2 or3 minutes of the game any other player of the fouled one should be allowed to replace him at the foul line.
    This will clean the CHEATING strategy that is permitted on the court.
    Dear Fran, if you agree with me, do you have a way to suggest this to Mr. Stern?

    • mee(a)t says:

      Its not cheating to foul a guy who can’t make free throws…its the coach’s fault for letting him stay.

      • Lucien Vardeni says:

        I agree with the second part of your reply: it was 100% the coach’s stupidity to leave howard on the court. After every time-out I was hoping to find him on the bench. But, no, he was still there. Made things so easy for the Lakers!!
        As for ‘cheating”, it wasn’t illlegal cheating, but it was cheating nontheless.

      • heat fan since 02 says:

        When it was happening to the lakers last season, everyone called the fans crybabies. the hack-a-howard strategy ceases to work in the last two minutes anyway cuz the fouled-off-the-ball player gets two free throws plus the ball. Your amended rule would have to include the last 5 – 8 minutes to be effective. But the truth is, it lets Howard off the hook.
        He’s a superstar, the uncontested best center in the league, getting paid MILLIONS, and can’t make a free throw? So to stop this from happening you want to amend the rules to benefit a player who doesn’t have a fundamental skill? The truth is Howard deserves it. He single-handedly loses games cuz he refuses to lock down on his free throw shooting and cuz he’s such a child that no one can tell him anything. He has the talent to be the best player in the league, he just doesn’t care. The rules shouldn’t be changed, people (especially superstars) should just work harder at the game they get paid millions to play.

    • Steve says:

      How is it cheating? Basketball is not just about driving to the basket or catch and shoot. One should be able to make the FTs. Its the coach`s fault, we all have seen how defenders force a player to go on his left if he likes going to his right, then that should be considered cheating as well.

  26. Heat Fan since Hardway and Mourning Duo says:

    Cmon Dwight, How you gonna make the Finals?

  27. CSN says:

    The Rockets are really gonna lose with that lame-as(s) player rotation of a lame-as(s) coach named Kevin McHale. Some are these:
    -A guy is shooting 1 for 10 and he got to play the entire fourth quarter, while someone shooting 5 for 8 plays lesser minutes. If the players were reversed, I’m pretty sure he’d never let the “bench player” play even a second of the fourth quarter.
    -Still insisting that particular 1-for-10 guy to start games.
    -Letting the “superstar” play isolation most of the time, no ball movement.
    -Letting his worst free throw shooter on the floor shoot free throws… at crunch time.
    -Didn’t put better catch-and-shooters on the floor during the last possession.
    -His go-to play: give the ball to the “superstar”. Actually, it is the only play the coach knows. Doesn’t even know how to draw an inbound play.
    -Simply cannot coach, I’d take Brian Scalabrine as the coach over this clown all day, everyday.

    Good luck to us Rockets fans.

    P.S. I really think “the McHale-proclaimed starting PG” is the product of one of McHale’s affairs. That will make a lot of sense, no?

  28. EvlP says:

    “You just got to make them,” Howard said holding a box of Kleenex. “I was terrible tonight at the line. We just gotta make them pay next time. Howard sobs.. #Loserbloodline

  29. Simba says:

    It says a lot about Dwight Howard that 10 years into his career he hasn’t even tried to fix his most glaring weakness. To be a professional basketball player making the amount of money he makes and being unable to at least go 1-2 from the line on a consistent basis is ridiculous. Working with Hakeem and McHale? How was that going to help you when teams start slapping you up? You’ve been getting around 20 points a game so far in your career so lack of post moves hasn’t hindered you that bad. However by now he should know that he has single-handedly lost his teams games with his poor free throw shooting. Sometimes it’s better to play smart than hard.

    • Sandy says:

      Simba is absolutely right. Howard was too worse. I can’t image what happened to Red nation next if he keep going like that?

    • mark says:

      Can you make more than 50% of your free throws? It’s easy for fans who have never played competitive basketball to criticize. Howard can do 80% in practices all the time. The problem is that once he misses, he continues to miss. He lacks confidence in his shot, has perfectionistic tendencies and succumbs to performance anxiety in games. He beat Harden in the pre-season shooting them with his eyes closed (8 of 10).

      • Liam001 says:

        I doubt the Houston Rockets pay him millions of dollars, so I think he has an excuse not to make free throws
        Dwight Howard on the other hand is being paid millions upon millions of dollars by the Rockets, so his inability to hit half of his free throws is relevant

  30. Lakers Fan says:

    No biggie as it’s just a regular season and what game number 4 or 5 of the season? As a Lakers fan I’m a realist that the Rockets are a much better team (Star power, bench, coaching, management decision) and will do way better this season than the Lakers, but hey a win is a win and hopefully it’s a sort of “things to go through” so the Lakers can rebuild, although painful process.

    • Bruce says:

      You sir are not a Laker fan because that win felt good! Quit going under the name “Laker Fan” when we all know you’re a closet Rocket fan. It is just a single game but it exposes the chemistry issues and the weakness in the Rockets. Remember “Star Power” = nothing if you have chemistry issues (you seem to have a short memory with the Lakers last season)

      • Rocketman says:

        You win a few you loose a few.I predict the Lakers will squeak into the playoffs and get beat in the first round just like last year. Outside of Beverly Rockets need a floor general to compliment the talent.Howard and the Rockets will play better in the second half of the season.They need a year to play under there belt just like the Heat did.
        But Rockets are moving up while Lakers well they had their day now its time to rebuild.

  31. lebranjomes says:

    “too talented to be average”, that’s fair.

  32. Gillsy says:

    It is a problem with Howard not been able to make a free throw to save himself. But in saying this its funny Kobe comparing Howard to Shaq when Shaq couldn’t shoot from the charity stripe to save himself and he has 4 rings. The other laugh is how the Clippers are complaining how Jordan misses a few from the line and he only gets sent here a handful of times a game. But when it comes down to it two big men in the middle is a good idea, like The Admeral and The Big Fundimental back in the day. But Howard is no Timmy cause he is useless more that six foot from he basket.

  33. Husk3r23 says:

    Dang Dwight!! You’d think playing 10 seasons in the most elite basketball competition in the world, he would had improved his post-game and three throw performance. Oh well!!! Screw it! DWIGHT 4 DPOTY!!!!!!!!!

  34. Big Euro says:

    Dwight Howard looks so uncoordinated when he posts up. There’s no way Hakeem’s moves can be taught to this guy. He should learn to be more like Patrick Ewing, by incorporating one, single post move like a baby jump hook into his game and becoming competent at the stripe. His main talent is Defence not offense.

  35. Rocketeer says:

    No offence or disrepect, I think Mr McHale should review how Phil Jackson handled the Hack-a-shaq strategy in the final minutes of a game (clearly it was the case in this game).

    • Lucien Vardeni says:

      An elementary school basket-ball coach would have handled this matter better than McHale had. I still think that this season the Rockets are champions stuff. But, not with such an uncompetent coach !!!!

      • Game Time says:

        Are you kidding. That wasn’t McHale’s fault. For one how do you think Howard would play the next few games if he was benched in the 4th. We know the drama that would come. Leaving him in to try and learn in a early season game was a good move. Besides, it was the poor defensive effort and execution that really lost the game for Houston.