Howard, a career 58% free throw shooter, has hit just 49% of his free throws this season. For years we have heard about how Howard can be seen draining free throw after free throw on any given day during practice. He supposedly makes nearly 90% when it doesn’t count, so the problem is clearly between Howard’s ears.
“In practice, I don’t think about what I do when I’m at the free-throw line and I make them,” he said recently, via CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger. “In the game, I’m thinking so much that when I start missing, I start thinking about missing again — or if I miss, what people are going to say.”
Last year, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni criticized the Orlando Magic for using the hack-a-Dwight strategy toward the end of a game. Howard ended up hitting 16-of-20 free throws in that game, so the plan backfired. Earlier this season, D’Antoni decided to give hack-a-Dwight a try for himself. Only this time it worked, with Howard making going just 5-for-16 from the charity stripe and the Lakers winning 99-98.
“Against the Lakers, I was just over-thinking and anxious,” Howard admitted. “I always thought of it as like being in love. If you grasp at sand and you hold it too tight, you tend to lose a lot of the sand. But if you hold it just right, then you never lose it. It’s just like a free throw. If you’re too uptight, you’re gonna miss. If you’re too loose, you’re still gonna miss. You’ve got to be just right.”
What a romantic metaphor. If only Howard could employ that strategy on a nightly basis. If mechanics were the issue, there would be an easier fix. The fact that Howard’s free throw struggles are a mental issue that has been ongoing for nearly 10 years should give Rockets fans zero confidence.Google+