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Once again Lakers GM Kupchak defends Dwight Howard

Mar 1, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

Thursday night in the Lakers win Dwight Howard didn’t put up monster numbers against Nikola Pekovic (who left early injured) and the Minnesota Timberwolves — 11 points, 13 rebounds — but you could see he was moving much better, particularly on the defensive end of the court. He’s healthier, his back is bothering him less, and it shows.

He is playing more and more like the guy the Lakers (and their fans) thought they were getting.

Once again in an interview, this time with Sam Amick of USA Today, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has Howard’s back. He says Howard played through a lot of pain in Los Angeles this year.

“I think he should get more credit for the reality of what has taken place,” Kupchak said. “Here’s a guy who didn’t have to come back. Forget whatever he needs (because of) this summer as a free agent, because doctors are going to say that after a year you’re going to be fine. But he came back because after a year he wanted to play and he wanted to win. And then he’s also had the torn labrum (in his right shoulder). I just thought he was getting unfairly criticized….

“I was surprised that he went through training camp and didn’t miss a practice,” Kupchak said. “I thought that maybe he would do some things on a side basket, and then he’d get in condition and we would maybe see him in December or January. I was surprised. I’m not sure he came back too early, but I think people expected too much, too soon.”

I think it was pretty clear he came back too soon. But part of it also was moments of a lack of effort, a clear frustration that he wasn’t getting his numbers, his touches, and he didn’t bring the same fire to the game.

Now, like all the Lakers, they seem to be starting to figure out an identity and how the pieces all fit together. They are not a great team by any means yet, but they are winning games they lost earlier in the season because they are executing better, playing their roles. They are starting to do the little things that are making them win games rather than blow leads and lose them.

As for Howard, he’ll get his max money this summer (most likely with the Lakers). And if he comes back and plays like the old, Orlando Howard all this will be forgotten by fans as he becomes the face of the franchise. His chance to define his legacy is still ahead of him, he just has to be serious enough to grab it and take advantage of it.

  1. money2long - Mar 1, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    DWIGHT ISN’T BAILING ON THE LAKERS. EXPECT HIM TO SIGN.

    • fanofevilempire - Mar 1, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      I think he will resign as well, where else do you go to win, Boston.
      Right now the Lakers are where the haters want them to be, down, but
      they are not out yet. They have a shot at the playoffs, I hope they make
      that run.

    • loungefly74 - Mar 1, 2013 at 1:38 PM

      yep yep! the scene is too glamorous to leave…

  2. themagicfanguy - Mar 1, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    While a Pekovic/Vucevic front court sounds like it would be amazing, Pekovic is currently on Minnesota, not the Orlando Magic.

  3. raidmagic - Mar 1, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    Damn I didn’t know the Magic played last night

  4. 69jaredallen69 - Mar 1, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Did you even watch the game? Pek did not play after the 1st quarter due to injury

    • tsi431 - Mar 1, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      The entire team did not play after the 1st quarter.

  5. claymatthewshairplugs - Mar 1, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Come on people Howard played the majority of this year at 75%. When is the hate going to stop. Could he improve his FT? Definitely, but now we’re starting to see Howard as the defensive presence that everyone anticipated. Once he gets back to 100% this team will be scary good. This Laker fan isn’t worried.

  6. kb2408 - Mar 1, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    LAKERS starting lineup next season: Kobe, Nash, Dwight, Earl (or MWP) and……………….starting at power forward………….KEVIN LOVE!!!!!! Minnesota will trade him for Pau’s expiring contract. Guaranteed.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 1, 2013 at 1:54 PM

      If Minnesota did decide to trade Kevin Love, don’t you think they could get a hell of a lot more than Pau Gasol’s expiring contract out of him?

    • southbeachtalent - Mar 1, 2013 at 3:31 PM

      Yea a win/win…hahahaahahaahhahahahaahahahaha

  7. censoredpost - Mar 1, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    No joke. He is much quicker in his up-down. I saw the diff last night when he had his shot blocked then ran the length to get his own block and a steal at the other end. Haven’t seen that in a little while. Re-up Dwight, the lights don’t get an brighter than in LaLa Land.

  8. isujames - Mar 1, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    I can’t wait to see your little simple hearts get crushed and stepped on in the off season when Howard bails on the Lakers and their boy Kobe.

  9. kanemoney - Mar 1, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    Aka “please resign with us Dwight”

  10. kb2408 - Mar 1, 2013 at 5:03 PM

    I swear it seems like some of you guys just started watching the NBA. Dwight will re-sign. The LAKERS historically get elite free agents (Wilt, Kareem, Shaq etc.). In spite of the new CBA, the players still, for the most part, call the shots. Kevin Love doesn’t want to play in Minny. He wants to play for the LAKERS. As a small market team, Minny would love (no pun intended) to have Pau’s expiring contract next season, as would other teams. LAKER haters just don’t understand that the LAKERS are in excellent position to win for the foreseeable future. Mitch is brilliant for only giving out two year deals! The key is locking Dwight up long term. After that watch how the other pieces fall into place.

    • eventhorizon04 - Mar 1, 2013 at 6:31 PM

      “As a small market team, Minny would love (no pun intended) to have Pau’s expiring contract next season”

      …Actually, no, that’s not really how it works.

      Teams pursue expiring contracts when they’re looking to free up cap room to attract an All-Star player in free agency the next offseason.

      Why would the Minnesota Timberwolves to trade an All-Star (Kevin Love) for an expiring contract that at best frees up enough cap room for them to pursue an All-Star?

      They would rather, you know, just keep the All-Star.

      A Pau Gasol trade by the Lakers is far more likely to be in exchange for role-players/draft picks than an All-Star.

      • eventhorizon04 - Mar 1, 2013 at 6:33 PM

        After the season Pau Gasol has had (posting the worst numbers since his rookie season and dealing with multiple injuries), no team would trade an All-Star player in his prime for Gasol.

  11. bucs24 - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:15 PM

    He out of here

  12. iamjimmyjack - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    Glad to have u Dwight. Ur a laker and ur gonna help us win a championship as a laker. Maybe not this year but sometime soon. If u want to play somewhere that gives u the best chance to win, than look no further.

  13. omniusprime - Mar 2, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    When one looks at the question of whether it was smart to trade away Bynum for Howard all we have to do is look at the fact that Howard has played almost every game while Andrew has played no games this season and looks to be finished for the season. I’d say we Laker fans got the better of the deal while Philly got stuck with the high priced injury dud. Granted Howard hasn’t played well but then he’s not fully recovered.

    If only the Lakers fire Dumbtoni and bring in a smart coach then the Lakers will be in good shape for next season to win it all. That also depends on what the Lakers do about trading away Ancient Trash Nash and Steve Flake to get a great young point guard like Kyrie Irving, bet he wants out of Cadaver purgatory.

    Fire Dumbtoni!!! Trade Trash Nash and Steve Flake!!! Thanks Dr. Buss, Rest in Peace!!!

  14. getoffline42 - Mar 2, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    wow, sounds like Mr. GM is saying everything positive to attempt to resign Howard and keep his job. what a brownnoser… hope he leaves.

  15. mcsuave - Mar 2, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    At least Howard is playing hurt and trying to earn a max contract. Bynum appears to be dogging it. Lakers got the best of that deal. Bynum gave Philly nothing while Howard gave Lakers a season.

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