Mike D’Antoni attributes lack of ball movement as only reason for Dwight Howard’s inconsistent field goal attempts

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni may backtrack every which way on the team’s playoff fortunes or his passive aggressive criticism toward Kobe Bryant.

But D’Antoni won’t yield on griping about the team’s inconsistent ball movement, namely how it directly correlates to Dwight Howard’s fluctuating field-goal attempts. In the Lakers’ 103-100 loss Friday to the Washington Wizards, Howard scored 20 points through the first three quarters only to have zero shots in the fourth quarter.

“That’s something we talked about,” D’Antoni said. “He has to have the ball somehow. If oyu make the easy play, the ball will find him. We just don’t do that.”

This is hardly a new element. But the commentary has fluctuated. Earlier in the season, the Lakers often stressed the need for Howard to improve his conditioning, adopt a stronger defensive mindset and show more activity on pick-and-rolls. Not anymore. D’Antoni believes Howard has done everything he needs to do to warrant receiving touches inside.

“Dwight has come to a whole new level,” D’Antoni said, “where he’s playing well.”

Howard has also touted the importance of ball movement, but has refused to gripe publicly about his inconsistent field goal attempts.

“I just have to go back on the defensive end and make a stop and help my teammates out and not get frustrated,” Howard said. “Whatever happens, I’ll continue to play my game.”

That’s a stark contrast to earlier in the season. After the Lakers’ 95-83 loss Jan. 21 to the Chicago Bulls, Howard kept showing reporters and teammates alike the box score that showed his five field goal attempts.

How did Howard’s outlook on this issue evolve?

“The better shape I get into, the better I’ll be,” Howard said. “If I can’t get to the rim on offense, I’ll find a way to be effective on the defensive end. If I don’t get [the ball], I’ll set a screen for somebody to get somebody open and just play off that.”

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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