EL SEGUNDO – With the storyline surrounding Dwight Howard facing the Orlando Magic for the first time since trading him this offseason to the Lakers, Magic coach Jagues Vaughn stressed this cliched message to his players.
They’ve heard their coach say numerous times that we’re concerned about ourselves as a team and we’re trying to get better.
Still, part of the Orlando’s strategy in hoping to upset the Lakers will involve Howard. After experiencing eight years of frustration surrounding Howard’s poor free throw shooting, the Magic will experience for the first time implementing the Hack a Dwight strategy.
“I am a gentleman who believes in playing within the confines of the game,” Vaughn said. “I think that falls in line with playing within the confines of the game.”
Howard has shot a career-low 47 percent from the line this season, and has gone six of 21 in the past two games. In four of the Lakers’ eight losses, the margin between made and missed free throws exceeded the point differential between winning and losing. Ironically, the effort from Portland and Brooklyn to adopt the “Hack a Dwight” tactics didn’t work.
But it may be the only shot for the Magic (5-10) to unseat the Lakers (8-8). Orlando ranks 28th out of 30 NBA teams in total offense (91.13 points per game) and have lost three consecutive games. After unloading Howard to Orlando in a four-team, 12-player trade that brought them Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, a 2017 first-round draft pick and a 2015 second reound pick, the Magic’s roster resembles little of the Howard era. Its massive rebuilding stemmed from the Howard trade features only five players from last year’s roster, including Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu and Ish Smith.
Vaughn playfully took exception to criticism surrounding the Hack a Dwight strategy.
“Loopholes? That’s such a negative connotation and a loaded word,” Vaughn said. “As a coach, you have to be smart. If opportunities present themselves and you can give yourself an advantage as a team, take advantage.”
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