Below are Q&A’s with various members of the Lakers regarding Dwight Howard’s struggles this year
Lakers guard Steve Nash
How has Dwight handled the pressure surrounding his injuries, new role and expectations with the team?
It’s been big. I don’t think Dwight has been himself. I don’t think he’s the player we’ve become accustomed to seeing. That’s down to recovering from a back injury and shoulder injury. The thing about Dwight is he can still be a tremendous player and terrific defender even if he’s not 100 percent. It’s been a tough year for everybody. I would hate to say one way or the other. He’s out here playing with a sore shoulder. That’s all we can ask.
How do you want him to play the pick and roll
We really want him to play the same way he played in Orlando. Pick, dive to the basket and find it and be the anchor defensively. We don’t want him to change that much.
Why hasn’t that worked consistently?
It’s different for all of us. I keep saying this. If we as players who have had a lot of success are longing for the way it was in the past, I think that’s a defeatist mentality. We can’t play five different styles. We can’t play my style, Kobe’s style, Metta’s style, Pau’s style or Dwight’s style. We have to find a way to work together. That’s the key. Everybody has to make this transition and give to the team what they can and not worry about what they’re not getting.
How do you think he’s made that transition?
The biggest thing is we have to shed the past and be unselfish and give to the group and not worry about your comfort zone. For me, I’ve been off the ball more. Instead of being like I’m uncomfortable, I have to embrace this and be a good player off the ball and try to become a spot up shooter. When I get in my pick and rolls, make plays for my teammates and be a good defender and add in different ways to improve my game. Instead of worrying about I did it this way, that’s where we get in trouble if we hang our heads.
Do you find that he’s taking this kind of feedback constructively?
I hope so. We have enough guys where we’re trying our best and we have to find that team spirit.
Lakers backup guard Chris Duhon (played with Howard on the Orlando Magic)
What are the similarities/differences to the challenges Dwight’s facing this year versus what he faced last year in Orlando?
I think it’s similar and different. The biggest difference was in Orlando he was the only superstar. He was bigger than the organization. He was bigger than the coach. And he had the players on his side. This is something different where shots are coming at him from a teammate. I know it affects him because he’s a guy who likes to please everyone. He hates when people question his toughness or anything about him.
How has that affected him?
You can see times where it doesn’t look like he’s having fun. Everything he does is being criticized. He tries to please so many people that it sometimes affects how he plays. You don’t see that love and joy for the game that he’s used to normally having when he plays out there.
When did that change?
Obviously a lot before we had the big talk in Memphis with him and Kobe. We were able to turn that around. I thought that was a huge part. But then obviously he gets hurt. That’s tough for him. He wants to play. He’s not a guy who wants to play. During that stretch, comments are being made. So now it’s like we got back in a circle again. Hopefully they can get over it and get healthy where it’s not an issue. He’s definitely concerned what people thinks of him.
How do you see the Kobe-Howard dynamic playing out?
The only way it will work is if Dwight doesn’t take it personally and understands that he has to be a certain guy for us and that guy doesn’t necessarily have to be 25 and 15. Keep the 15 boards. But he doesn’t have to take 15-20 shots. But defensively he has to be our anchor, protect the basket and do what he’s done his whole career.
Do you see Dwight taking the criticism personally?
It’s almost like he’s getting attacked that he always has to defend himself. There’s a sense because Kobe has been here 17 years that the Lakers back him up. So it’s like Dwight’s against the world pretty much. You can feel lonely at times feeling that way. It’s been tough. Obviously when someone questions your toughness, it’s hard. I know he tried to play with a back injury.
Have you found the rest of the locker room intervene or just let that play out between Dwight and Kobe?
You have to do both in a sense where guys feel have a better relationship with Dwight can constantly including myself that this is what we need. We need you to be who you are in order for us to be good. Don’t worry about the other stuff bother you. As long as you try to make it seem as if he’s by himself. Not everyone has that same opinion that we need him to be a certain guy.
It’s tough because of the situation. If we took care of business early, we’d have wiggle room. Every game wouldn’t be as important. Now we’re fighting and getting into the playoffs. We can’t afford three game losing streaks or anything like that because we dug ourselves into such a hole. You have to do it both. I understand he has to listen to his body, it’s his career. I definitely respect that. In the other sense, if he could play even if not at 100 percent, he’s still better than most at 80 percent.
On the scrutiny Howard is facing this season
I tell him every time, the microscope is on you. If you throw your gum in the stands, they will write about it. What you have to do Dwight is turn that off and have fun. When I saw him in Orlando, he was smiling and having fun and enjoying himself. As of late, I haven’t seen that.
When did that change?
When everything else changed for us. The losing and things getting out about certain things. That’s part of the territory with what you’re dealing with. This is a different breed and different beast. You have to have fun and not worry about the other stuff.
How do Dwight and Kobe work together?
I think a lot of it is blown out of proportion. That’s why it’s like who cares. They’re doing their job, writing and trying to find things. They haven’t been a problem. It’s us collectively as a group. Nothing different. It’s just trying to find a rhythm and what works best for us and trying to take it to the next level. It’s a process and a challenge. But they are our superstars so the way the team goes, it’s going to come down to them. We have to weather the storm and let those two leaders take us into what we’re trying to accomplish this year.
Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham
How is Dwight handling all the various adversities this season?
At some point as a player, you have to have tunnel vision. The thing is it all starts with you putting the best possible performance on a consistent basis that you possibly can. At the end of the day, the rest of the stuff doesn’t matter. What’s being said in the media doesn’t matter. If you go out there and bust your [behind] as hard as you can up to your potential, he can. He’s coming off a tough summer where he had a career threatening injury. I’m proud of him he made it this far. But what he has to understand is there’s different levels you grow to into this game. You come in the game and you’re trying to prove why you’re such a high draft pick. Then they see you have a little something, you have to prove to people you can be a consistent and major contributor. He did that.
Now he sees how can my individual performance ripple around my team. You accomplish that and help your team to the point where they’re in the Finals. You accomplish that. After that ultimate goal that is the NBA champions, after doing that there’s different rules to the game now. Now it’s no longer about so much what you do as an individual and how you fit into the big picture of things. You go into different levels. There shouldn’t be any pressure on him in my opinion because when you’re surrounded by the magnitude of players you’re surrounded by, whatever happens to you individually is a byproduct of trying to get a win. Whether tyou have8 and 8, 18 and 18 or 28 and 20, it doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes to win ahs to be the formula. That has to be the theme, whatever it takes to win.
I think Orlando is a smaller market and being a big market like LA. People wil search for stories night and day out of our team. There’s so much press our team had coming into training camp and things going on with the coaching changes and trade rumors. You can’t escape it. At the end of the day, it’s about what’s in the locker room. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is too far to worry about. It’s about right now. How do we get good right now. What do we do right now to get better. That needs to be not only Dwight, but every guy’s focus. One day at a time. We can’t afford to look behind us and can’t afford to look too far down the street. We have to maximize each day. Every time we step out on that floor, we have to maximize that opportunity.
Has the coaching staff questioned his injuries?
None of us are inside of his body. I had seven surgeries. Sometimes I tried to play through them and sometimes I couldn’t. I’m never one to question someone’s medical health and trust the people whoa re experts in that discipline. But if he can play, you have a lot of help around him. Go for it. Be the presence that we know you can be. Dwight is a good kid. He wants to do the right thing. It’s just that this is foreign to him. He’s never been in a situation like this. It’s nto a bad situation to be in. When I stepped out there, I wanted to be on a winning team and be a part of a winning team that tried to put banners up, not division champs or eastern conference or western conference champs. But the ultimate banner that has the trophy on it. That’s what we all play for.
What’s the feedback he’s been given then?
Coach D’Anton’s heart is in the right place. Kobe’s heart is in the right place .Dwight’s heart is in the right place. But when you get down to the bare essentials of what we’re trying to accomplish. Everybody is on the same page where we don’t go to work, practice and shootarounds to fail. No one tries to fail. No one shotos shots and tries to miss. No one has that in their heart. It’s just about selling out to the process as a group, coaches, players, trainers, equipment managers, you have to sell out to this and can’t be I have one feet in over here and one foot over there. You have to be all in. Trust the process and the situation.
Do you sense that he takes that personally?
No one is trying to assassinate anyone’s character. We’re trying to go about trying to get wins so we can set out to accomplish what we set out to accomplish. It’s simple in my eyes. I’ve been a part of three championships
What’s your evaluation of the pick-and-roll between Dwight and Steve Nash?
When ran properly, there’s nothing that can stop it. It can’t be stopped. But energy and effort have to go into it. You have to do thing swith a sense of urgency. Sometimse we become a grind it out team and at the end of the day, it’s the energy you put into it. It’s the energy you put into that pick and roll that will make it successful. If I come off Dwgiht and he’s rolling ahrd to the basket and Steve is coming off balance and Kobe is coming off the perimeter behind that pick and roll, the defense has to make a decision. They can probably take two things away. Somebod will be open for a shot. Dwight will be open for a dunk or Kobe will be open for a shot.
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