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Lakers begin work on conquering cape fear

Lakers' most pressing issue in the Finals against Orlando appears to be devising a way to contain the NBA's self-styled 'Superman,' Dwight Howard. Maybe they should bring kryptonite.

June 01, 2009|BRODERICK TURNER

The "beast" is 6 feet 11, 265 pounds, his physique like that of a Greek god.

The beast is quick, athletic, powerful and dominant, a force unlike any other in the NBA.

The beast is Dwight Howard -- also known in many circles as "Superman" -- who now has become a target the Lakers must contend with and contain.

The beast and his Orlando Magic teammates will be here Thursday to play the Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center.

Howard widely is considered the best center in the league, a work in progress still, but yet such a talent that the Lakers will develop a game plan they hope can keep him from controlling the game.

"He is a beast inside," said Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw, who is in charge of devising the scheme against Howard and the Magic because Orlando is one of his scouting assignments during the season.

"But I think there are ways to contain him and to contain the beast. As we go through the series, we have to figure out how to do that."

The Lakers haven't seen anyone like Howard in the postseason.

The Utah Jazz had centers Jarron Collins, who offered little offensively or defensively, and Mehmet Okur, a perimeter-shooting big man with little post game.

The Houston Rockets had 7-6 Yao Ming, but he made his living more on turnaround jumpers than in the low post. He also broke his foot in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals and didn't play the last four games.

The Denver Nuggets had 6-11, 250-pound Nene, but he doesn't have the power game Howard has.

"He's a unique kind of player," Pau Gasol said Sunday after the Lakers watched film of the Magic. "I don't think there have been many players like him because of his physical gifts and attributes."

It'll be up to Andrew Bynum to deal with Howard in the beginning. Bynum averaged 8.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 22.5 minutes in the two regular-season games against the Magic and Howard. Bynum was limited by foul trouble in the first game.

Howard averaged 21.5 points, 16 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots in the two games, both Orlando victories.

Gasol and DJ Mbenga will get their turns at Howard too.

The Lakers didn't double-team Howard much doing the regular season, preferring not to leave three-point shooters like Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis alone.

"We are a long team. We have lengthy defenders to deal with Turkoglu and Lewis," said Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, who has lost his last two tries in the Finals at breaking the tie he has with Red Auerbach for most NBA championships as a coach with nine. "But I don't know who can guard this big kid if he's as physical as he is. Howard is just a real powerhouse down there inside."

Howard was named NBA defensive player of the year, another area he can control.

He has averaged 21.7 points in the playoffs, including a 40-point effort Saturday in Orlando's Eastern Conference-clinching Game 6 victory over Cleveland.

Shaw said the idea is to beat Howard to his spots, to eliminate lob dunks, to crowd him inside, to make him take shots (as opposed to dunks), to deny him deep post position, to not let him dominate the game.

"He might be the best post-lane center in the league, meaning he changes ends of the court from defense to offense better than anybody," Shaw said. "His first three steps are faster than any center. He runs down the middle of the floor and gets deep position in the post. We have to try to eliminate some of that."

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Brown sued

Lakers reserve guard Shannon Brown has been sued in civil court over an alleged sex-related incident involving a woman in Denver.

Brown played for the Charlotte Bobcats at the time of the alleged incident; the Bobcats played in Denver on Jan. 30. He was traded to the Lakers on Feb. 7. Denver police investigated the woman's claim, but prosecutors didn't pursue the matter.

Brown was served papers Friday in Denver before the Lakers closed out their series against the Nuggets that night.

Brown said he was innocent.

"The truth is going to come out," he said Sunday. "I didn't do nothing. I'm innocent. I'm going to let it take its course."

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Rambis job interview

Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis is expected to interview for the Sacramento Kings' head coaching vacancy early this week in Los Angeles. Kings General Manager Geoff Petrie was on the East Coast tending to personal issues but plans to speak with Rambis before the Finals start.

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broderick.turner@latimes.com

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