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LAKERS FYI

Dwight Howard takes a half-step back and improves his free throws

"I just think he's getting more comfortable and getting his confidence," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said.

January 01, 2013|By Ben Bolch
  • Dwight Howard has shot 61.5% from the free-throw line after making an adjustment to his shot, which included taking a step back.
Dwight Howard has shot 61.5% from the free-throw line after making an adjustment… (Harry How / Getty Images )

Dwight Howard may never remind anyone of Caltech graduate Fred Newman, who once made 1,481 consecutive free throws, but the Lakers center is hoping a loosely scientific approach can improve his accuracy.

Having noticed that many of his shots were bouncing off the back of the rim, Howard has moved his feet about six inches behind the free-throw line over the last month or so.

The half-step back has resulted in some forward movement in precision.

Howard had made 56 of 91 (61.5%) free throws over the 11 games preceding the Lakers' game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night at Staples Center.

That's a considerable uptick for someone who had previously shot 46.9% from the free-throw line this season and is a career 58.4% shooter.

"The success can't be measured by numbers right now," Howard said Tuesday. "The success is measured by consistency, and for the most part I've been consistent."

Indeed he has. Howard made six of eight free throws against Charlotte, six of nine against New York and seven of 13 against Portland.

"I just think he's getting more comfortable and getting his confidence," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game. "And he's hit some big ones. I think he's around 80% when they've fouled him on purpose or toward the end of the game, which is good."

Howard determines whether he has moved back far enough by bouncing the ball between his foot and the foul line. If there's enough room, he's ready to shoot.

Howard said he has also worked on keeping his shot elevated.

"It's not as flat anymore as it was," he said. "I don't think there's been as many bricks as there were earlier in the season."

Lakers sideshow

Robert Sacre has found a way onto sports highlight shows without getting off the bench.

Or, more precisely, because he's on the bench.

The Lakers reserve center has been featured in the background of several nice plays by his teammates, the 7-foot rookie bounding off the bench to flick his wrist after a three-pointer or wildly flail his arms in karate-chop fashion after a dunk.

He is often the highlight of the highlight.

"He's always animated," Howard said.

Sacre's cheerleading routine has been shown on NBA TV and generated a YouTube tribute that has been viewed more than 163,000 times. It's an unlikely rise to cult hero status for someone who was the final pick of the 2012 draft and has played mostly in blowouts, averaging 0.5 points in 13 games.

"Right from Game 1, I think people started being like, 'What are you doing?' " Sacre said. "I really was just like, 'I'm just having fun.'"

Where did Sacre get his moves?

"I learned a little bit from Yosemite Sam," he said, referring to the cartoon outlaw from "Looney Tunes." "He has those guns shooting up in the air, but other than that, really I just freestyle and go with it and get super excited when they make a great play."

Sacre might have something more personal to celebrate soon. His $474,000 salary becomes guaranteed if he is still with the Lakers on Jan. 10. If the team intended to cut Sacre, it would need to request waivers on him by 2 p.m. PST Monday.

The same goes for fellow rookie Darius Johnson-Odom, who has spent most of this season in the Development League.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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