Magic need more effective Howard in Game 2
AP Basketball Writer
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) – Hubie Brown first tried positioning two recorders and a knife on the table in front of him. When that didn’t work, he grabbed a reporter’s notebook and sketched his idea on paper.
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy has his own equipment and undoubtedly spent his Saturday doing what Brown was doing: Trying to draw up ways to make Dwight Howard more effective.
After a lackluster start to the NBA finals, the Magic need Howard to play better – and maybe smarter and harder – when they face the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 on Sunday night.
“I don’t think I was patient enough in the post. I don’t think that they caused a lot of problems for me. I think it was just rushing and wanting to do so much without being patient,” Howard said. “I think out of all the games I’ve had in the last two playoff series, I was probably the most impatient the last game.”
Howard was limited to six shots – six Orlando players took more – made only one, and scored 12 points in the Magic’s 100-75 loss on Thursday.
After dominating the Cavaliers and averaging 25.8 points in the conference finals, Howard found things much more difficult against the Lakers, whose post players are stronger and much more mobile than Cleveland’s.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao played behind Howard, who bulled his way into good position down low and often just had to spin around and dunk. The Lakers put a defender in front of Howard, and when he was able to catch it, they further threw him off his game by sending double and even triple teams.
“Just by fronting this kid the other night, Howard got absolutely frustrated,” said Brown, the former coach turned ESPN commentator.
“When your center doesn’t get the ball, he stops rebounding and stops blocking shots. You see the kid the other night? He puts his head down and you sulk as a big guy.”
Van Gundy refused to single out Howard, saying his entire team played poorly in the opener.
“I wasn’t happy with anything we did on the floor,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think our effort and intensity was great. I’m not pointing fingers at anybody. I think it was all of us. But to say I was satisfied or happy, no, not at all. I don’t think you can be after a game like that. But that’s not to lay it on one guy.”
Brown said one adjustment Howard could have made was to post up further away from the basket, making it harder to front him because teammates would then have more room to pass him the ball going toward the baseline. But he was more alarmed by Howard’s work rate once the Defensive Player of the Year started realizing things weren’t going his way.
“After just watching him six times against Cleveland, if he does not get the ball when he’s running hard – when he thinks he’s running hard – then he has a tendency to slow down,” Brown said. “If he does not get the ball, he’s just like most young, big guys. I’m not running hard if you’re not going to throw me the ball.”
Howard called out Van Gundy for not getting him the ball enough after an Orlando loss to Boston during the second round. And while six shots is far too few for a team’s leading scorer, ESPN analyst and former coach Jack Ramsay thought Howard got the ball enough, just didn’t make good decisions with it.
“When he couldn’t get it, or when he got it, he didn’t read the defense. That’s on him,” Ramsay said. “He got enough touches early on to establish a game for himself, but didn’t read the defense. The defense was very good and it took him out of his game.”
Howard led the NBA in dunks, but his offensive repertoire is limited.
“I think he still needs to develop a little more into a better post player because that’s going to help him,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “That’s just going to help him be more unstoppable. Develop a little bit more of a shot, face-up shot, and turnaround jumpers will help him, too. I just think it’s a weapon that you can use for double teams.”
Howard won’t have all that in time for Game 2, but he knows there are plenty of other things he can do better.
“I have to slow down, slow down. When they come down and double, pass it out to my teammates and trust that they’ll make the shots,” Howard said. “And also when I have the ball in the post, really just read where the help is coming from.”
“I don’t think I did a good job of that during the game. I’ve talked with the coaching staff and I’ve talked with the players who have seen what was going on on the floor. I’ve seen it, and the think the biggest thing for me is just being patient.”