The All-Star Reset for Dwight Howard
By Brian Martin
During all of the events, appearances, parties and fun of NBA All-Star Weekend, Lakers center Dwight Howard found some alone time -- time to reflect on the first half of his first season in Los Angeles and what he needed to do after he left Houston and headed back to L.A.
"I just told myself, 'I'm going to commit myself to being better for the second half of the season,'" Howard said after practice on Saturday.
Howard hasn't just provided quotes about rededication and improved play, he has delivered. In the 10 games since the All-Star break, Howard is averaging 15.5 points, 14.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks to help the Lakers post an 8-2 record and sole possession of the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
|Pre All-Star (48 games)||16.3||11.8||1.5||2.3|
|Post All-Star (10 games)||15.5||14.8||0.8||2.6|
It helps that Kobe Bryant has been playing at an incredible level over the past three weeks as well -- averaging 32.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists and picking up two Western Conference Player of the Week honors along the way.
But you can see a difference in Howard's play. He has been more active on the defensive end and on the glass, and has been better in pick and rolls on the offensive end. Whether this is due to his rededication to the team's goals of winning a championship, being in better physical condition from an improved diet (cutting out sugars) and additional time for his back to heal from offseason surgery, or a combination of all of these things -- it is a welcomed sight in Laker-land.
|Pre All-Star (48 games)||10.8%||26.5%||18.9%|
|Post All-Star (10 games)||12.5%||32.1%||22.6%|
The increase in Howard's rebounding numbers are not just based on per-game stats, which can vary based on opponent and pace of the game. If you look at Howard's rebounding percentage, he has increased the amount of available rebounds he has grabbed on both the offensive and defensive end since the All-Star break..
|Period||OffRtg||DefRtg||NetRtg||USG%||+/- (per game)|
|Pre All-Star (48 games)||104.0||102.1||+1.9||22.1%||+35 (0.7)|
|Post All-Star (10 games)||113.0||98.7||+14.3||21.4%||+88 (8.8)|
Here you'll see that Howard's usage rate has dipped slightly -- a pair of 40+ point performances from Kobe likely contributed to that -- but his on-court plus/minus has increased dramatically. The same goes for Howard's on-court offensive and defensive efficiency -- up 9.0 points per 100 possession on offense and giving up 3.4 fewer points per 100 possessions on defense.
|Pre All-Star (48 games)||57.8%||49.5%||57.5%|
|Post All-Star (10 games)||55.4%||33.8%||52.6%|
The one area that has not improved for Howard has been his shooting, as his field goal, free throw and true shooting percentage have all dropped since the All-Star break. But his scoring is needed less than his defense and rebounding for the Lakers to find success.