We can easily see what is wrong with the Los Angeles Lakers from a distance. Poor transition defense. Aging stars. No Steve Nash running the point. Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard being out-muscled by a man (Glen “Big Baby” Davis) who probably eats fruit snacks during timeouts. Not finishing games strongly. Giving up 40-point fourth quarters to a Aaron Affalo-led team (who also had 30 points). Rant. Rant. Stat. Stat. Analysis. Blah.
After pre-maturely terminating coach Mike Brown after a 1-4 start, fans and media questioned the intentions of Lakers front-office management and playing style. But with Mike D’Antoni’s somewhat rocky 3-4 start, we can identify the main catalyst for the Lakers’ woes points to an issue that is constantly being swept under the rug as probably the most uncoachable phase of basketball.
Really? Free throws?
The Lakersare next-to-last in free throw percentage in the NBA, slightly above the Denver Nuggets (66.8%). The more important trend is that Dwight Howard, as dominant as he can be around the boards, shoots approximately 1/3 of the Lakers‘ free throws. Howard is shooting a career-low 45% from the stripe, while leading the league in free throw attempts (11.0) per game.
If the Lakers made at least 75% of their free throws a game, that 8-9 record looks more like 10-7, or better. Honestly, there’s only so much blame you can put on a coach for his team not being able to execute when it counts. We’re not even going to mention that the Lakers have played 12 home games in this 8-9 stretch, and the most recent loss to the Orlando Magic sets a bad precedent for the team’s dysfunctional woes to this.
Free-throws are one of the few “uncoachable” points of any game. Players are simply isolated, relying on mechanics and focus accrued through many hours of practicing before games. I don’t want to say that Dwight Howard’s jolly-green-giant personality is possibly conflicting with his work ethic, but even the best free-throw specialist in the game can’t shoot free throws for the Lakers (Except for Kobe).
Free-throws are the only thing players have absolute control over. And if the Hack-A-Howard trend picks up throughout the season, teams will find one more way to beat an already-flawed and aging Lakers squad.
Mike Brown was brought in as a defensive specialist. Mike D’Antoni was recently brought in as an offensive specialist. Both were hired with the mindset of making a title run in the last phase of the Kobe Bryant era.
Too bad they are losing games at the free throw line. Especially the close ones.
Mike Brown, you’re off the hook for now. Enjoy char-grilled Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and lemonade that tastes like angel tears. Mike D’Antoni, welcome to the Terrordome.