Oklahoma City Thunder: Mike D'Antoni toes the line for Dwight Howard

Lakers coach asked why he doesn't remove the center late in games because of Howard's poor 46.9 percent free-throw shooting
BY JOHN ROHDE Published: December 6, 2012

Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni recently was asked why he doesn't remove center Dwight Howard late in games because of his 46.9 percent free-throw shooting.

“Because they (critics) have no clue what they're talking about,” D'Antoni said tersely. “It's pretty simple. You don't do that to a guy and he made his foul shots. He's not the reason that our defense breaks down. He's not the reason that stuff happens. He's got to work through this. If you take him out now, then what are you going to do? Are you going to take him out all the time? You've got a player who's going to be your franchise player. You don't do that to him, and it's not him that's causing the problem.”

When Kendrick Perkins first arrived with the Thunder, opposing teams started fouling him late in games. Perkins is a career 60.5 percent free-throw shooter.

“They did that to Perk one time, and he sank six free throws in a row,” three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant said with a smile. “That's pretty cool to see from a big man, especially like Perk — you do that to him he's going to talk trash to you. They did that once to him and he made those free throws. I don't think we can do that against him (Howard) because he always seems to make his free throws when we play him.”

While playing for the Orlando Magic two seasons ago, Howard had 39 points, 18 rebounds and sank 17 of 20 free throws in a 125-124 loss to the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Jan. 13, 2011.

TEAMMATES REUNITED

Durant, Russell Westbrook and Lakers great Kobe Bryant were on Team USA last summer at the Olympic Games in London. Thunder forward Serge Ibaka and Lakers forward Pau Gasol were teammates with Spain, which lost to the U.S. team in the gold medal game.

“I haven't talked to them much this summer,” Bryant said of being an elder statesman to Durant and Westbrook. “I feel like they already know enough. I really enjoy both of them tremendously and (former Thunder sixth man) James (Harden), too, on the Olympic team, being around them in practice and watching their work ethic. They're throwbacks, man. That's rare to see nowadays.”

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