Dwight Howard
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Dwight Howard's 'Off the Charts' Energy Sparks Lakers

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

He put his hand up in the air, calling for the ball. As the pass sailed wide, he couldn’t turn his head back to look at the hoop. It didn’t matter.

Dwight Howard caught the ball and, in one motion, dropped it over his head and through the rim for a reverse slam. He wasn’t going to miss that — he wasn’t going to miss anything, in fact.

Howard was a major factor in the Lakers’ win over Charlotte, scoring 16 points on a perfect 8-of-8 clip, while also packing in 10 rebounds and four blocks into only 23 minutes of work.

“I wasn’t thinking about anything but doing whatever I can to help the team win and keep the crowd energized,” Howard said. “Great things happen when you do that, so I just wanted to continue to do that, do whatever it takes and enjoy it.”

Howard’s dunk was emblematic of how he’s gotten his buckets in his brief second stint with the Lakers.

Rather than a steady diet of pick-and-rolls and post-ups, Howard is now whetting his appetite with timely cuts to take advantage of his playmaker teammates.

And while his most frequent location may be the dunker spot, Howard has also scrapped buckets on the offensive glass, beating his man on the boards and popping back up at the rim.

(He also had a nice pass to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope off a tough offensive rebound.)

“Tonight, in particular, he was off the charts,” coach Frank Vogel said. “Obviously 8-for-8, scoring the way we want him to score by crashing and rolling to the basket. … Defensively is where I felt like he was dominant. He had four blocks, but he changed several other shots, got every rebound it seemed in his area. … He had a hell of a night.”

Indeed, Howard was probably even more impressive on the other end of the floor, where the three-time Defensive Player of the Year anchored the Lakers’ paint.

Dwight had energy to spare against the Hornets, perhaps best seen when he bit on Cody Zeller’s pump-fake, but had the bounce to recover and block his shot before hitting the Dikembe Mutombo-inspired finger wag.

“Dwight’s been able to block shots, rebound, get us second-chance opportunities and also finishes around the rim,” Anthony Davis said. “Any time he’s on the floor, he definitely makes us a better team.”

And while Howard had no shortage of spectacular plays versus Charlotte, his impact was felt just as much in the subtler moments that helped establish a tone for the Lakers.

Below, he walls off Charlotte’s dribble penetration and (after some nice help defense from Danny Green) gets back in time to challenge his original man, eventually resulting in a Davis swat.

Acquired by the Lakers after DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL, it was initially uncertain how much Howard would contribute. After all, he played just nine games last season due to back and hamstring issues.

But through his first three outings, Howard has given the Lakers exactly the energy that they’ve needed off the bench.

“That’s why we brought him here,” LeBron James said. “We felt like everyone else was writing him off. We feel like we can give him a great opportunity, and we believe in him. We believe in his word, and he’s making the most of it. We’re truly excited to have him here right now.”

It’s early — there are 79 regular-season games left — but the results thus far have been strong.

Howard is averaging 7.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks, while shooting 10-of-14 from the field. He’s playing stout defense, while picking his spots wisely on offense.

And seven years after his initial season in L.A., Howard has drawn respect from Lakers fans, as seen by STAPLES Center’s standing ovation when he checked out of Sunday’s game.

“Myself and the fans have been through a lot together, but just to be back here man, it means a lot,” Howard said. “I’m just taking it all in. Every second, every minute on the court is valuable, and our fans enjoy when we go out there and put everything on the line. So I”m just trying to bring that energy and that effort and intensity every night.”

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