- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Dwight Howard expects San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to parade him to the foul line when the Los Angeles Lakers open up their playoff series with Game 1 on Sunday, and it doesn't faze him one bit.
"If they want to do that the whole series, God bless them," Howard said when asked about the Spurs using a "Hack-a-Howard" strategy on Friday. "There's nothing I can do about it but go up there and shoot the free throws. Even if I make them, they're still going to do it. So, that's not my concern. My concern is what I can control on the defensive end and then on the offensive end, just dominate. If they foul me, they foul me. We're going to make them pay."
Howard went 8-for-17 from the line in the Lakers' 91-86 win over the Spurs last week.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni has experience with Popovich using the "Hack-a-Whomever" scheme before. When D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns lost to the Spurs 4-1 in the first round in 2008, Shaquille O'Neal was repeatedly fouled and went 32-for-64 (50 percent) from the line in the five games.
"I'm sure they'll try it," D'Antoni said. "We worked on Dwight being evasive out there today so they couldn't catch him.
"But we'll just deal with it. He's going to make shots and he'll make his foul shots."
Spurs guard Tony Parker on Friday was asked how many times he expected Howard to go to the foul line.
"I don't know, you should ask Pop," Parker said. "But a lot. That's my guess, if I had to bet money. People are going to scream at him in L.A., it will be funny."
D'Antoni doesn't find the tactic quite so humorous. Earlier in the season, the coach said the league should consider banning the strategy.
"I'm not criticizing anybody, but it's part of the rules that's just not great," D'Antoni said in March, a couple days after Howard went 25-for-39 against the Orlando Magic. "We're an entertainment business. That's not entertaining for anybody."
D'Antoni admitted that stance was "self-serving" on Friday, considering he has Howard, who shot just 49.2 percent from the line this season, on his team. But he stood by the need for a rule change.
"I know when they vote (to ban it), I guarantee I'll vote yes," D'Antoni said. "But, the league will look at it. They look at everything, always. They just want to get it better. If it's better for the game (to ban it), then great. But, it's not me to say when you have guys (on your team) that they're doing it to. But, I'm sure it will happen, and Dwight will step up and knock them down."
9hMichael C. Wright