Although he surely understands his $19.5 million he’s making this season makes it possible to absorb it, Lakers center Dwight Howard considered the NBA’s $35,000 for committing a flagrant foul type 2 against Denver forward Kenneth Faried excessive.
“It’s a lot for a foul, flagrant foul,” Howard said. “I was happy I didn’t get suspended. That’s the biggest thing. I’m disappointed to be kicked out of the game. That never happened since I’ve been in the NBA.”
Howard then explained how he can avoid such penalties in the future.
“I have to play through it all,” he said. “I can’t allow it to affect me in a negative way to where I’m not playing hard and not doing what I can do and just dominate. When I allow those petty things to get to me, it affects my teammates and we lose games.”
Howard already has “three points” under the NBA’s flagrant foul policy.
Once a player hits six flagrant-foul points, they receive an automatic single-game suspension. Any further flagrant fouls earn a day’s suspension per point.
“I guess I’ve got to foul softer,” Howard said.
Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni said he talked with Howard about the latest incident both with good humor and with sympathy. D’Antoni joked he can return his unspecified Christmas gift Howard gave him to help pay for the fine. D’Antoni also understood how Howard absorbs plenty of punishment inside that goes unnoticed.
“It’s tough. He gets hit a lot,” D’Antoni said. “Big guys traditionally get hit a lot. When you’re tired, you can get frustrated. That’s what happens. He has to watch it. Everybody does. It’s not easy. It’s part of the game. The bad part of the game is he has to get through it. Shaq had the same thing. Wilt [Chamberlain] had the same thing. The Goliath has that. We can debate it today, right or wrong. But that’s what’s happening.”
Howard refused to lean on that as an excuse.
“I just got to continue to play through it,” he said. “Whatever it is, if the guy is going my way or not my way. I have to find ways to affect the game and not let the game affect me. I’ve been a victim of that for a while.”
Howard’s production has dipped compared to other seasons. He has averaged 17.5 points and 11.78 rebounds per game, his lowest numbers in both categories since his rookie season. Howard, who had back surgery in April, has also showed inconsistency on defense.
Howard personified that in the Lakers’ loss against Denver on Wednesday. On one rotation, Howard and Steve Nash argued over a missed rotation that led to Nuggets center JaVale McGee getting an open dunk.
The Lakers have maintained that particular incident provides value for their development.
“That means they care. That’s fine. They’re both great guys,” D’Antoni said. “If they’re bad guys and trying to blame each other, that’s not good. But they’re trying to work it out. It gets heated. You get tired. That happens. I don’t think it’s unhealthy at all.”
“You have to be able to talk to each other,” Nash said. “I like it when guys get frustrated. You have to be able to control that. But it’s good when you show emotion. That’s energy. That’s something our team needs.”
Such incidents just remind Howard of a conversation a certain former prominent Laker talked about with the team during training camp.
“When we first got here, Jerry West talked about that back in his day it was a little bit easier because there wasn’t as much media attention like it is now and we have to be able to overcome that,” Howard said. “Sometimes it is tough, especially when you’re losing. You don’t want to turn on the TV. You’ve got to be aware of what your friends and family and other people are saying but you can’t get caught up into all that. It can be tough at times.
“Every little thing, it sticks out. If we mess up a play on defense or you miss a free throw, or whatever it may be, it just looks like it’s the end of the world. But we have to move forward, remember that we have a goal in mind. It’s still obtainable.”
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