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D’Antoni is not going to bench Howard during hack-a-Dwight

Dec 5, 2012, 9:42 AM EDT

Dwight Howard AP

It’s not about winning the battle, it’s about winning the war for Mike D’Antoni.

That’s why he hasn’t done what a lot of Lakers fans are calling for — sub in Jordan Hill for Dwight Howard when the other team starts hack-a-Dwight. Both the Magic and Rockets were able to make fourth quarter comebacks against the Lakers that started with hack-a-Dwight. Not only because he leaves half the points on the free throw line but also because it throws off the Lakers rhythm and their defense gets worse at the same time. The Lakers start to press and get flustered.

D’Antoni needs his best big man on the floor to win come late in the season and the playoffs, so he got a little heated when asked after the game why he doesn’t listen to what Lakers fans asking, why he doesn’t sit Howard when the hacking starts (via the Los Angeles Times):

“Because they have no clue what they’re talking about,” D’Antoni said. “It’s pretty simple. You don’t do that to a guy and he made his foul shots. He’s not the reason that our defense breaks down. He’s not the reason that stuff happens. He’s got to work through this.

“If you take him out now, then what are you going to do? Are you going to take him out all the time? You’ve got a player who’s going to be your franchise player, you don’t do that to him. And it’s not him that’s causing the problem.”

In the two games against Orlando and Houston, Howard has shot 50 percent from the line during the hack-a-Dwight strategy (12-of-24). The first reaction is that is too many points left on the table, and there is validity there. But Howard is in his ninth NBA season and is a career 58 percent free throw shooter — he’s worked on this for years and it’s not going to get a whole lot better.

And D’Antoni is right — the problem is when it happens the Lakers defense falls apart (they gave up 74 fourth quarter points in the last two games combined) and they start to press. They get out of the game plan and when that happens the lead evaporates — Kobe Bryant was scoring and distributing most of the game, but was 1-of-4 shooting after the hack-a-Dwight ended.

D’Antoni is right about this, too — he can’t go into the playoffs against the Spurs with Gregg Popovich knowing he can get Howard on the bench for five minutes of the fourth quarter by fouling him. If Popovich or any coach can get the Lakers best interior player off the floor a key stretch of the game they will. Without hesitation.

The problem is the Lakers continue to lose a lot of battles as they try to win the war, and they are now 8-10. More frightening for Lakers fans in the short term, the team is 1-5 on the road this season and six of the next seven are away from Staples Center.

  1. skids003 - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    Teach the big cry baby how to shoot free throws, that will fix the problem. How can someone 7 feet tall shoot that badly from 15 feet away with no one guarding you. Unbelievable!!

    • paleihe - Dec 5, 2012 at 11:22 AM

      Actually, it’s not unbelievable.

      Wilt, Russell, and Shaq (just off the top of my head, I’m sure there are more) all sucked at the line. Should he be better than 50%? Sure.

      But still, even at 50%, you’re getting a point per possession which isn’t that bad.

    • chitownmatt - Dec 5, 2012 at 1:17 PM

      If he doesn’t learn to make a free throw soon, its really going to affect the ratings of this summer’s, “Decision II – The Sequel”

    • camnellum12 - Dec 5, 2012 at 1:58 PM

      I agree, but Dwight is 6’10, not 7 feet

    • mytthor - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:56 PM

      Yeah, it’s not unbelievable at all. Part of it is just the size of the big players’ hands.

      Go try to shoot free throws with a softball and see if it’s easier or harder to control.

  2. sal11 - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Of course the Magic and Rockets scored gobs of points in the 4th quarter using the intentional fouling strategy. When every Laker possession lasts 3 seconds, any team playing catch-up will have more chances. Yes, the Lakers defense failed them, but getting Dwight out for a few minutes will, if nothing else, speed the game up and limit the opposition’s possession. It’s a little closed-minded for D’Antoni to refuse to even consider it.

  3. abchome - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Howard said before he wants to be the man, especially with the game on the line despite his obvious free-throw weakness. He’d pout all this season and be gone the next if D’Antoni dare to bench him.

  4. chargerdillon - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    Nobody wants to point out the fact that Dwight Howard is in no way a dominant offensive presence. They wouldn’t be able to use the hack-a-dwight so effectively if they had to use it early on in the game to stop him from easy baskets.

    There are no easy basket for Dwight Howard to make, he’s not really going to beat anybody in the paint for 2 points, he might beat them for a rebound, but offensively he’s weaker than Andrew Bynum, and defensively he’s such a goofball nobody is intimidated of him the way people would be of Bynum after he drilled the Mavericks midget to the ground a few years ago.

    Dwight doesnt play strong, he doesn’t play mean, and he gives the games away in the 4th quarter because of it.

    No player is hurting the Lakers more than Dwight. And the sad thing is I like him, but the eyeballs don’t lie

  5. chaseutley - Dec 5, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Can you stop calling it “Hack-A-Dwight?” It’s kind of lame.

    • badintent - Dec 5, 2012 at 4:56 PM

      fine. We’ll cal it “Ball don’t lie”

      I’m Sheed and I got paid for this message.

  6. lakerchuy - Dec 5, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    Fact is, Lakers lost out on a few possessions due to Hack a Dwight last night. As Kurt said, after 9 seasons, Dwight’s freethrow shooting is probably NOT going to get better. Hill needs to get the opportunity to cover for Dwight in Pinch situations, just as much as Dwight needs to learn to play through. when the game is on the line, coaching is part of defense.

  7. LPad - Dec 5, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    I think D’Antoni is highly overrated coach that media thinks is a genius for running a simplified pick n roll offense. However, he is right for several reasons:

    the fouling allows the Lakers to set their defense on the other end, which should make the defense more effective especially if cross matchups are occuring in the game.

    it should lead to more free throws to Kobe in the last two minutes of games, since the other team would be over the limit and they can’t intentionally foul.

    it almost guarantees a point per possession that make any comebacks a lot harder.

    On a different note, I’m surprised Laker fans would be upset with leaving Dwight in maybe I’m wrong but I don’t remember Phil sitting Shaq during the Hack a Shaq days. Figured they would be more upset with D’Antoni’s awful defensive approach that is coughing up games despite the advantages teams are giving him.

    • lakerchuy - Dec 5, 2012 at 12:17 PM

      but you would only be sitting him until the two minute mark. which would have been a stretch of less than two minutes. allowing for maybe a couple “normal” posessions. back in at the two minute mark, dwight could at LEAST have an opportunity to muscle up a shot attempt if he is fouled under the basket, AND Lakers get possession.
      But L Pad, if i remember correctly, wasn’t Hack A Shaq was based on fouling Shaq THROUGHOUT the game and wrapping him up so he just couldnt establish an offensive rhythm?…Hack a Dwight seems to be, foul so much as to completely disrupt the game in the final minutes.

      • lakerchuy - Dec 5, 2012 at 12:19 PM

        *correction* Howard could at least get a foul attempt OR if he does NOT have possession of the ball and they foul, THEN lakers get FT’s and possession*

      • LPad - Dec 5, 2012 at 1:27 PM

        I don’t know if I would sit Dwight until the two minute mark. a team with a lot of depth could start fouling earlier if he’s having a big game for ex. at the start of quarter or something. If it became known or obvious that I would sit him if he started to get intentionally fouled.

        good point about the hack a shaq, forgot there were two diffent versions. I was referring to the Don Nelson foul Shaq before he crosses half court as opposed to the just foul the heck out of shaq before he dunks it on you if he catches it in the paint.

      • somekat - Dec 5, 2012 at 1:33 PM

        Kobe wouldn’t have many more FT attempts. You only get 1 foul in the last 2 minutes regardless of how many you have before the other team shoots anyway, so at best it would get him 1 extra trip to the line.

        I think the solution I posted below is best. Keep Howard in the entire 2nd half, until about 5-6 minutes in the 4th. Then you sit him, and bring him back at the 2 minute mark. That way, he still gets his rest in the 2nd half like normal, plus Kobe still gets his. Kobe can carry the load for those 3-4 minutes Howard is sitting, and vice versa. Meanwhile, Howard is rested and fresh for the last 2 minutes (4-5 possesions most likely), so he can be a beast on the boards and blocking shots, even more so than normal (seeing as he SHOULD have more energy than the other guys having just come off the bench)

  8. davidcl77 - Dec 5, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    He won’t last long.

  9. somekat - Dec 5, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    I honestly don’t think D’Antoni is secure enough within himself to make this type of decison. If Howard wasn’t looked at as a “superstar”, and was looked at as what he is (The best defensive player in the world, a beast on the boards, at best avearge on offense, and horrendous free throw shooter), I think he’d make the move. But since Howard has the superstar label, he doesn’t want to get him upset. We all know who wins coach vs star fights, and it’s even more heavily tilted towards the player in LA (See Jackson V Kobe)

    Honestly, I think it would be a good idea. If nothing else, you rest him for the last 2 minutes when they can’t do it becuase the Lakers will get the shots, and the ball (personally, I think an idiotic rule. If your team has free throw shooters so bad that they can lose that way, why save them), and he can be fresh for the last 4-5 possessions. I’m not saying sit him the whole 4th, but I see no reason to just not rest him in the 2nd half til 5-6 minutes left in the 4th, and bring him back at the 2 minute mark.

    Seems like a perfect solution to me. Most gus usually get a blow late 3rd early 4th anyway, just leave him out there while Kobe takes his. He can carry the load when Kobe is out, and vice versa

  10. mungman69 - Dec 5, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    Bench him Christmas Day

  11. jordanismyidol - Dec 5, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    It was awesome to see orlando use the hack a dwight to claw their way back to victory hahaha. On top of that dwight ran to the locker room after the game and didnt even shake hands with his former team only to call his mom and cry

  12. omniusprime - Dec 6, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    Clueless Clown Dumbtoni is the one who’s stupid, he’s the coach who lost two games to the Smite-a-Dwight defensive cheat. If Dumbtoni got a little heated about being questioned about his coaching stupidity then he should step back a moment to understand just how furious Laker fans are with his pathetic coaching debut with our team. Dumbtoni had better get the Lakers on a huge winning streak or else he’d better be gone with the wind. Go Lakers!!! Fire Dumbtoni!!! We Want Phil!!!

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