Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard has not looked like the explosive player he was during his time with the Orlando Magic. Howard admitted that his lack of energy and problems with conditioning have cost the Lakers some games.
“You’ve got to have energy and I want to bring that energy every night,” Howard told ESPNLA.com Saturday. “That’s my job. They count on me to be that guy. I know how much more effective I will be when I’m in better shape. And, unfortunately, it’s cost us a lot of games.”
Howard acknowledged that he is “not even close” to where he wants to be, but said his conditioning has steadily improved throughout the season after back surgery this summer.
“I knew that would be a process. The better shape I’m in, the more active I can be and the more I’m able to do on the floor,” he said. “But it was a struggle at first because I just didn’t have it in the tank, especially on defense.”
Howard, who is three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, was forced to take off six months from basketball after surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back last spring. He didn’t return to physical activity until just before the Lakers training camp in October.
Howard went on to add that it has been hard to get into shape during the rigorous season and traveling with the team. But he said that he is doing everything he can do to pace himself to get into shape so he can be an offensive and defensive problem for their opponents.
“That comes with time,” he said. “But I’m not going to get discouraged. Once I get tired, I’m going to ask for a blow, take a break, then get back out there and go hard again.”
The Lakers’ front court is currently suffering with injuries to Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol. Hill is out for the remainder of the season with a hip injury and Gasol is out for at least another month with a foot injury.
“There’s no subs so until I get in great shape, some times I have to make sure I don’t risk a dumb foul because I’m out of shape or fatigued,” he said. “I usually can play 45-48 minutes without getting tired. Now after five possessions I’m winded. But all that stuff will come.”
Howard promised that if the Lakers continue to play the way they are, then he will be in “pretty good shape” in time for the playoffs, if they make the playoffs.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has taken notice in Howard’s improvement in his conditioning, which has allowed him to run and execute the pick-and-roll-based offense more effectively.
“But now he’s getting in a little bit better shape; he’s getting a better relationship with Steve (Nash) on the pick and roll,” D’Antoni said of Howard. “Now he understands that he can be in every play. We want him in every play and will be big factor in them.”
Howard’s play has picked up as his conditioning has progressed. He has had two double-doubles in the last two games. He had 24 points and 12 rebounds in Wednesday’s win over the Boston Celtics and 19 points and 16 rebounds in Friday’s win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Howard will have a chance to continue the double-double streak as they take on the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday and try to inch their way into the playoffs.