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LAKERS FYI

Former Laker Dwight Howard criticized by Hakeem Olajuwon, fined by NBA

Houston Hall of Famer says he wished new Rockets center 'was doing a better job.' League fines Howard $25,000 for tossing ball at heckling fan.

November 21, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan

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This might sound familiar to Lakers fans, but Dwight Howard was criticized for being too passive with the Houston Rockets.

The critique came from Rockets legend and part-time Howard mentor Hakeem Olajuwon.

"I wish he was doing a better job," Olajuwon told NBA.com. "Dwight has always been athletic and aggressive and he still is. But when I watch him, what I see are opportunities that he is missing. When he gets the ball, he seems to be taking his time to decide what move to make, where he should go."

Olajuwon worked with Howard during the off-season but returned to his home in Jordan last month. He plans to go back to Houston in January or February.

"I thought we were doing a good job with this when we were working together over the summer and at the start of training camp. But what I see now is that when Dwight gets in competition, he has a tendency to go back to all of his old habits," Olajuwon said. "Maybe if I am there with him all of the time we can reinforce new habits and make it all feel natural."

Olajuwon did not like Howard's free-throw shooting, which continued to dog him in Houston (54%).

"I think this is where a confident routine comes in," said Olajuwon, a career 71% shooter from the line. "Sometimes you just have to let it go. Don't think. Don't hesitate.

"I won't say that you can't ever win a championship as a big man if you don't shoot free throws well, because Shaq did it four times. But it can be a deciding factor, so you want to fix it."

Olajuwon made his comments before Howard had 33 points and made nine of 13 free throws Wednesday against Dallas. The Rockets lost, though, and fell to 8-5.

Howard had a bizarre encounter with a Mavericks fan in a courtside seat, tossing the ball at a heckler after being fouled down low in the fourth quarter.

The fan batted the ball back toward Howard, who had already turned to go to the free-throw line. Howard was called for a technical foul at the time and was fined $25,000 by the NBA on Thursday.

Bryant out Friday, unlikely to play Sunday

The Lakers emerged for a third consecutive day of practice, but Kobe Bryant didn't join them.

He took Thursday off because of general soreness in his left foot, the same one in which he sustained a torn Achilles' tendon last April.

The Lakers did not use the dreaded "S" word, declining to call it a setback and saying it wasn't unexpected.

Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni equated Bryant's status with being tired on the third day of training camp. Bryant had practiced at full speed the previous two days.

He will not play Friday against Golden State and looks increasingly unlikely for Sunday's game against Sacramento.

"I think it's just precautionary," D'Antoni said Thursday. "It's going to be a little bit of a process and [we'll] make sure he's healthy when he gets back."

It was hard to gauge Bryant's explosiveness because he hadn't pushed off his Achilles' tendon for many high-impact plays in practice, D'Antoni said.

"He didn't look too rusty," D'Antoni said. "With that said, he's not ready to play right now. We just have to hold the horses a little bit. There are going to be days he'll have to take off and days that he'll ramp it up. But definitely not a surprise.

"He looked pretty good, he's on target. He'll play when he plays."

The other guys

Steve Nash said he was a "little better," holding his thumb and forefinger an inch apart when asked how he felt.

Nash has not played in almost two weeks because of persistent nerve damage in his back.

Chris Kaman also did not practice Thursday because of a sore back.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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