DENVER — It's been awhile since Dwight Howard's free-throw shooting became a headline.
It happened Monday.
He made three of 14 from the line in the Lakers' 119-108 loss to the Denver Nuggets, a woeful 21%. He actually made his first two, so you can imagine what happened from there.
Everyone knows Howard will never win any free-throw contests. The carnival workers won't be handing out any stuffed animals when he steps up to the basketball booth and opens his wallet.
But three for 14 tied his worst of the season when he's had more than 10 attempts. He was also three for 14 in the season opener against Dallas.
"I can't get down on myself," Howard said. "For the most part, the same form and everything was straight. Some were just long. I've just got to continue to practice and they'll start falling. But I'm not going to get discouraged. I'm going to beat this."
The Lakers made only 14 of 31 as a team (45%).
"I'm not going to dwell on it much just because nobody steps up there and wants to miss it," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said, later adding, "If you miss 17 foul shots and get beat by 11, you can kind of do the math."
Howard is making 48.5% of his free throws this season. He is a career 58.1% shooter from the line.
The Lakers swear Howard makes 75% to 80% of his free throws in practice. Of course, that's without a crowd. And the pressure of a game.
"I don't want to compound it. [Howard] had a tough night at the free-throw line," Kobe Bryant said. "He's been shooting the ball pretty well recently. It was like an off shooting night."
He's a fan
George Karl loves to beat the Lakers, even though his son played for them a few years back and Karl made an appearance in their locker room briefly after Monday's game to talk to Steve Nash.
Karl has also admired Bryant from afar for years. Monday was no different, Karl saying Bryant's season was "very impressive to me."
"He told me in Denver when he beat us last year in the playoffs that he was getting old. But he was lying, man," Karl said. "He looks healthier and younger now than he did last year. And the shots he's making [are] just a coach's nightmare."
Sure enough, Bryant made 12 of 23 and had 29 points and nine assists against Denver.
Bryant, 34, is under contract for one more season. How much longer could he play?
"I think the first thing that's going to go is his mind. He will weaken and his talent won't be as dominant without his mental toughness," Karl said.
"He's one of the most complete or intimidating mental guys in the game of basketball. He knows how to intimidate through a lot of different ways. He also knows how to motivate himself to get ready to play. This year, he's been marvelous at it. I think mentally, if he would lose that edge, then I think his skills would probably follow."