When Phil Jackson speaks we listen. When Phil Jackson speaks about the Los Angeles Lakers, we stop everything we’re doing to hear what he has to say.
Eleven-time NBA champion and soon-to-be Hall of Fame coach recently sat down to speak with Jack McCallum for Sports Illustrated on an array of topics and, of course, he spoke on the Lakers. When asked about the team, Jackson spoke on how Dwight Howard isn’t being properly used.
They just don’t put the ball in the post. They’ll use a screen-roll to get the guy in the post. But there’s no consistent plan to do it. Yes, Kobe will go in there. But Dwight [Howard] just doesn’t get any touches. They’ve basically eliminated his assets.
You want the ball 10 feet away from the basket. Throw it into the post, make them double-team and have everybody around to make shots. That’s what Shaq could do. That’s where you have the Robert Horrys, the Derek Fishers and the Rick Foxes sitting out there getting wide-open jumpers
via Sports Illustrated
First and foremost, Dwight Howard is no Shaquille O’Neal, especially offensively. But compared to how Howard was used during his Orlando Magic days, Phil Jackson is right. Since entering the NBA, Dwight has never been the traditional back-to-the-basket center. He’s used a combination of strength and athleticism to make up for his “lack of a post-game”. And most importantly, Stan Van Gundy found creative ways to get Howard the ball in situations where he could score easily, the pick and roll being one of them.
Howard often faced up against defenders instead of the traditional back to the basket position to score in the paint. But between the shoulder injury and back injuries, Howard, at times, just isn’t faster than whomever is guarding him. And with the team he’s surrounded and his physical abilities, he has to be more willing to run the pick and roll with Steve Nash who’s one of the best passing guards in the game at the moment.
Looking at film of Howard in 2009-10, the Magic got Dwight the ball in places that benefited him offensively. When facing defenders who could match his strength, they got him the ball lower on the block. And when defenders weren’t as quick as Dwight he either faced-up and made his move or spun inside using his speed.
The most obvious things in all of this is Dwight Howard’s overall health. While we want him to be his old self his body just isn’t allowing him to do so. If he ever gets close to 100 percent, 75-80 looks more feasible, then the Lakers will have the perfect blueprint to get Dwight to look like a shell of a his former self. The players Van Gundy placed on the floor with Howard allowed for the perfect floor-spacing. And with Kobe Bryant – Metta World Peace - Steve Nash and Earl Clark in the starting Lakers lineup, it’ll be very possible though Clark and World Peace aren’t knock-down shooters.
But with the Lakers Dwight, it would be best to get him involved in the pick and roll. And if Phil Jackson thinks so, then there shouldn’t be anymore questions for Mike D’Antoni to push his team to run it more.