Dwight Howard was frustrated after Tuesday’s defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers and pointed to his teammates in the locker room for the loss. He preached patience as he has after every loss this season, but the smiling Lakers center was subdued and spoke at a whisper when meeting the media following yet another frustrating loss to an opponent with a losing record.
“I didn’t see them do anything special,” Howard responded when asked if the 76ers did something in particular to limit Howard to only seven points on seven field goal attempts.
Howard said that the Lakers play a certain way when they win and beat bottom-feeders by large margins, and he said they play a completely different way when they lose games. Unlike his teammates, Howard did not focus on energy or age when asked to explain the seemingly inexplicable loss.
“We just didn’t play together, especially on the defensive end—a lot of mistakes down the stretch. Nobody rotated fast enough. That’s where we lost the game.”
It is a tired and repetitive line from the Lakers’ center, but it is one he genuinely believes. Howard is a player obsessed with defense, and when the Lakers lose, he looks at what he knows: defense. Howard clearly does not like the way his team plays down the stretch on that end of the floor. Even when the Lakers have seemingly every possible offensive excuse at their fingertips, Howard blames the defense.
In the long run, Howard’s obsession with the defensive end of the floor should pay dividends, but his constant shouts for defensive improvement may be falling on deaf ears. Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni is widely known as a one-dimensional coach, and defense is not that dimension. Steve Nash is an offensive genius, but he has never been much of a defender.
Even Kobe Bryant, who has nine NBA All-Defensive First Team honors and three NBA All-Defensive Second Team honors, seems to lack consistency and motivation on that end of the floor. On nights when Bryant takes on the offensive load, defense seems to completely drop out of his game.
Howard, however, is not backing down when it comes to finding a solution to the problem. The three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year preaches “patience” and “practice.”
The Lakers have practice on Thursday to try and figure out their problems, but with 31 games played and the Lakers sitting on a losing record, patience is wearing thin inside the Staples Center locker room and outside on Figueroa.