Lakers center Dwight Howard struggles from the free throw line. ( Harry How / Getty Images )
Dwight Howard can still improve his free-throw shooting. The Lakers swear on it.
Sometimes they might swear at it, but they continue to work on his foul shooting. He entered Friday's game with 47.8% accuracy from the line, a main reason the Lakers were the NBA's worst team in the category.
Howard makes between 75% and 80% of his free-throw attempts at practice, including scrimmages and post-practice individual work. The Lakers chart them all. They know what he does when no one watches.
But that success hasn't translated to games.
"He has to learn how to play catch with the rim," said Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person, assigned to work with Howard on free throws. "He has to block out all the obstacles and distractions — 20,000 people cheering for him at home or 20,000 people cheering against him on the road.
"He has to be looking forward to getting up to the line. He has to embrace it."
Howard has been less willing to talk about his free-throw woes, repeating his desire to skip the subject three times after being asked about it by reporters after Thursday's practice.
With Howard's inaccuracy leading the way, the Lakers were making only 66.8% as a team. Oklahoma City was leading the league at 84.5%.
It could definitely play a factor when the teams meet next Friday in Oklahoma City. If each team hypothetically gets 30 free-throw attempts, it's a little more than a five-point edge for the Thunder if the percentages hold true.
At the very least, Howard must stick with the way he shoots from the line, Person theorized, because the misses won't always outweigh the makes.
"He has to be consistent with his routine," Person said. "If you continually search for a technique, you're going to continually search for success. But if he allows himself to do it one way, success will come naturally."
Howard is a career 58.5% free-throw shooter, though he started fading even more last season, finishing under 50% for the first time (47.8%) in his eight years with the Orlando Magic.