HOUSTON — The Lakers have a chance to get back at Dwight Howard, and it doesn’t just involve hurling insults at him for leaving.
They could humiliate Howard by exposing his greatest weakness by intentionally sending him to the free-throw line. When they visit the Houston Rockets here tonight at Toyota Center, will the Lakers consider using the so-called “Hack a Dwight” strategy?
“Ummmmmmm, that’s always there,” Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni said with a smile. “That’s always a possibility.”
Whether the Lakers actually do that remains uncertain.
The Lakers are already performing a more tactic based more on performance by starting Chris Kaman at power forward in place of Shawne Williams. With Kaman paired up with Pau Gasol, the Lakers hope that could mitigate the potential damage from the Rockets’ frontcourt featuring Howard and 7-footer Omer Asik. Through the Rockets’ 4-1 start, Howard and Asik have combined for five double doubles.
Still, with Howard shooting 56.3 percent from the line this season, it’s pretty obvious who D’Antoni referred to in his game plan outlined below.
“Our keys are to eliminate layups, don’t them get off threes and don’t foul so much unless it’s a certain guy,” D’Antoni said. “I think that’s always a weapon. I didn’t say Hack a Dwight. But you play where you fouled him and it’s not the worst thing in the world. The worst thing in the world is him dunking and them shooting 3’s.”
Howard hardly excelled at the free-throw line last season, averaging a 57.8 percent clip. That nearly mirrors his career 57.7 percent mark. When Howard met the Orlando Magic after being sent to the Lakers in a four-team, 12-player trade, Howard showed some mixed success with the “Hack a Dwight” strategy. He went nine of 21 from the foul line when the Lakers lost last December to Orlando at Staples Center. In his visit in March to Orlando for the first time since leaving the Magic, Howard tied his own NBA record for free throw attempts by shooting 25-for-39 from the foul line.
Afterwards, D’Antoni decried the strategy, saying, “I hate it for the fans.”
What does he think now?
“Then I didn’t say I was going to do it,” D’Antoni said with a smirk.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org