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Kobe breaks down Dwight Howard's free-throw shooting problems

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

It's not your fault. (Getty Images)

Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard sucks at free throws.

He's so bad at it that I feel like I end up writing something about it every three days. In fact, if he keeps up his current pace of 11.1 attempts per game and 46.9 percent from the line, he'll have just the 10th season in NBA history of more than 10 attempts per game and less than 50 percent accuracy. He already did this last season when he attempted 10.6 freebies per game and made just 49.1 percent of them.

Wilt Chamberlain accomplished this five times and Shaquille O'Neal has done it twice. Maybe this is another attempt by Dwight to be just like Shaq? Kobe Bryant has his own theories on how Dwight got to this point and says the root of the problem is with basketball development in this country. Via ESPN LA:

"I think it all depends on how you're raised, how you're taught the game from when you were little," Bryant said. "I think that's why it's such a critical thing in how we develop our players growing up, whether it's AAU and all these other camps.

"I think they pretty much wanted (Howard) to play inside the paint his entire career, ever since he was 12 years old. They wanted him to dunk everything and finish everything at the rim. They didn't want him shooting it because he was bigger than everybody, and, as a consequence, they left out the shooting aspect of his game.

"If you contrast that with some of the European players growing up, they're taught at an early age how to play all aspects of the game -- from ball-handling, to shooting. So, I think it's really just about our system here in the States and how we teach kids how to perform."

That ... is actually an incredibly cogent point by Kobe Bryant. That's not to say it should absolve Howard from being able to make an acceptable percentage of his free throws. However, it wouldn't shock many of us if he was never taught to properly shoot a basketball because the focus was always on his size and strength.

For players who don't have the developmental benefit of having a late growth spurt in their high school years, they're often just thrown to the basket by coaches and told to stay there until they've finished dominating the competition of smaller children and peers. In the NBA, you have to be a special kind of physically dominant (i.e. - Shaq) player to be able to still get away with that.

Although, it seems weird that once Dwight jumped from high school to the pro ranks, he wouldn't have been pulled aside by a shooting coach and forced to learn how to make free throws. Or maybe he just doesn't want to take the advice from others on a sensitive subject like this, which magnifies the vulnerability in his skills.

Also in that piece by Dave McMenamin, Howard apparently was given tips by Steve Nash and then had this comment:

"My mind cannot get clouded with everybody telling me how to shoot a free throw," Howard said. "I just have to go up there and shoot it my way and not get caught up in what everybody else is saying, because that's when I miss."

"My way," huh? Well, your way, Dwight, isn't very sporting or even good. As a career 58.4 percent free throw shooter, Howard's way doesn't exactly seem to strike much confidence in those who want/need better results. It's quite possible he's received so much advice over the years that it gets into his head and causes him to doubt himself. And when that happens, good luck making your free throws on a pressure-packed stage.

Still, his way also includes his own form, which looks horrendous to the marginally trained eye. His way has caused teams to foul him when he doesn't have the ball because they're confident it will sink his team. When you have guys like Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash on your team, you're not taking advice from just anybody.

You're taking advice from a guy who has made the fourth-most free throws in NBA history with a career 83.8 percent success rate (Bryant) and another guy who is tied with Mark Price for the highest free throw percentage of all time (Nash).

One thing we've learned from all of this -- Kobe should be a basketball czar in this country and revamp the entire AAU and high school system.

 
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