- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN FRANCISCO -- When Dwight Howard is open for a mid-range jump shot and chooses to pass instead, assistant coach Dan D'Antoni mutters the same phrase under his breath every time.
As good as Howard is in the post, the Lakers coaching staff is encouraging him to extend his range, figuring it will make the All-Star center even more of an offensive threat.
"I just want to continue to get better," Howard said after shootaround on Monday, as the Lakers prepared to play the Golden State Warriors. "It’s not like I can’t shoot the ball from out there. I just got to have the confidence and belief in myself to do it in the game. So, I’ll just continue to practice on them and the better shape I get into, the more legs I’ll have to take those shots."
Howard was the last Lakers player on the court Monday, practicing one-dribble, pull-up jumpers from the top of key just beyond the foul line. He then worked his way to bank shots from either wing, looking like Tim Duncan -- his rhythmic flick of the wrist leading to the ball hitting the window with a thud and then falling silently through the net time and time again.
According to NBA.com StatsCube, Howard is shooting 21-for-88 on jump shots this season (23.9 percent) and 4-for-18 on jump bank shots (22.2 percent). So it's still slow going for Howard when he's not on the block. However, there's been some progress -- he's hit jumpers in both of his last two games.
Howard has joked this season that his motto is, "If you need a 3, give it to me" and even though he is just 1-for-5 from 3-point land this season, he genuinely believes in his outside shot (he hit a rather memorable 3 in the All-Star game). However, unlike Andrew Bynum who bucked against being told not to shoot it from deep, Howard knows that isn't his role on the Lakers.
"I can shoot the ball from anywhere," Howard said. "I just got to have confidence in myself to get out there and shoot it. I don’t think this team needs me to be a 3-point threat, but the more comfortable I get with shooting the ball out there, I think it’s going to make it harder for guys to guard our team.
"Instead of just worrying about me getting down low in the paint and banging, just step out, hit a couple jump shots and then that leaves the defense (where) they got to be honest. So, I’m just going to continue to work on them."
The nine-year veteran said he's been practicing jump shots for "awhile" and he worked with one of the most offensively gifted big men ever to play the game, Hakeem Olajuwon, in the summer of 2010 to hone his all-around skills.
Whether we'll see Howard shooting those shots and shutting up Dan D'Antoni during games will be up to Howard's mindset more than the defense dictating his action.
"It doesn’t matter what they do," Howard said. "I just have to be confident in myself. I shoot the ball all the time in practice when we’re scrimmaging and playing. I just got to transfer all that to the game, just like my free throws. So, I’m going to continue to practice, continue to gain more confidence, continue to get my rhythm and all those shots will start to fall."
21hAmin Elhassan and Baxter Holmes