Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni told the Los Angeles Times that he isn’t worried about teams using the old “Hack-A-Shaq” tactic on Dwight Howard.
“I’m not taking Dwight out. He’s too valuable. You take him out, like when they did hack-a-Shaq at the end … then defensively we can’t stop anybody,” said D’Antoni. “He’ll make his foul shots. I’ve got faith in him. If everybody plays hard and if that’s how we go down, then we’ll go down that way.”
D’Antoni continued, saying that in situations where the team needs a three, he isn’t concerned about Howard getting the ball — and then getting the free-throw line.
“We know how to get around that,” he said. “That’s not a big deal.”
Last week, when the Lakers played the Toronto Raptors, Howard caught the ball when the Lakers needed a three point shot. He quickly passed it off to Steve Nash.
As long as Pau Gasol is injured, the Lakers have limited choices for size if the opposing team goes big in the final minutes of the game. D’Antoni has to play Howard. But once Gasol is back, the Lakers are taking a risk by having Howard on the floor.
Statistically, he is only going to make one of two foul shots. Howard’s starting to play better and soon the pros of having him on the floor in the final minutes may start to outweigh the cons. However, if there is another option for defense, the Lakers should take Howard out.
Shaquille O’Neal faced a similar problem and Phil Jackson never took him out in the final minutes. However, the Lakers never had to climb the mountain that the current Lakers do. There really isn’t room for error in the last playoff spot.
Shaq was a slightly better shooter than Howard with a 52.7 percent career average. He was slightly higher during his years with the Lakers, even getting up to 62.2 percent one season. Howard currently sits at 48 percent.
On Monday, the Lakers played the Orlando Magic and “Hack-A-Dwight” was in full effect. It’s the easiest way to limit Howard and that’s not going to change anytime soon.