Did you ever see the Michael Jordan–Looney Tunes movie “SpaceJam”? Remember the Monstars? On Sunday night, Dwight Howard’s Los Angeles Lakers debut, you might have had trouble distinguishing the 2012-2013 Lakers offense from the 1996 Monstars.
When you watched Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, or Pau Gasol catch the ball in the paint and saw the opposing center drift off of Howard, then the inevitable usually occurred… a Dwight Howard alley-oop slam.
On offense Howard changes the Lakers for two reasons: 1. spacing 2. rebounding. Howard can sit under or near the hoop and either get a dunk or a put back dunk after the rebound on nearly every play. Kobe sees the potential there as well.
“With the offense that we have, on top of the talent we have, it opens up the floor a lot,” Bryant said. “For me, I’ll get two backdoors a game, for layups at the rim. There’s more spacing in the middle. There’s quick post-ups. You won’t see me holding the ball too often unless I’m in the post.”
Howard also changes things in an area where the Lakers have been weak this pre-season, transition defense. It is pretty hard to run a transition offense off a Howard dunk, a Bryant layup, or a Nash swished 3; the Lakers showed a glimpse of that in the first half against the Sacramento Kings and shot 60% from the field.
Obviously, Howard will have a significant impact on the Lakers defensively; he showed a bit of rust with some mis-timed dunks and he was late on a few defensive rotations. His stat line didn’t show it though; he finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots.
“They’re like The Avengers out there,” Sacramento’s Chuck Hayes said.
The Avengers? Or the Monstars? That being said, the Monstars eventually lost the game to uber-human Michael Jordan’s stretchy arm dunk from half-court. The only antidote to this year’s Monstars could be the uber-human LeBron James and his positionless Miami Heat.