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Frank Vogel says shooting threes is a ‘reward’ for all the dirty work JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard put in

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Frank Vogel is letting his big men shoot — something that goes against his first instinct — but there’s a reason for his leniency.

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New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

On Tuesday night, when the Los Angeles Lakers hosted the New York Knicks for their first matchup of the season, Dwight Howard made his third career 3-pointer. Ironically, he’s made all three of his 3-pointers while wearing a Lakers uniform: One in 2012, and two this season.

But the Lakers didn’t sign Howard to make threes. In fact, Howard’s contract was non-guaranteed up until earlier this week in case he started doing more than he was brought on to do: Rebound, block shots and play above the rim. So far, Howard and the team’s other center, JaVale McGee, have been able to do just that and as a result, Frank Vogel has allowed them to take the occasional 3-pointer during games.

“It’s not something that we want, but those guys are doing the dirty work, you know?” Vogel said following Tuesday’s win. “So you’ve got to have a little leeway sometimes and have fun with the game, and they both practice (threes). So that’s the one thing. Like don’t take a shot you don’t practice, but they do practice, and you’ve got to reward them a little bit for all their hustle and dirty work.”

That message seems to have been relayed to McGee earlier in the season, although his interpretation of it is a little different than Vogel’s.

“The more threes I shoot, the more blocks I get. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works,” McGee said after his 3-point make against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

Luckily for McGee, he swatted away enough shots against the Pistons to give him the green light for at least one more game — assuming the NBA doesn’t have anything to say about it.

This season will mark the first one in which Howard and McGee will finish with more than one 3-point make, but that doesn’t mean they hadn’t started working on their 3-point shot until this season. For Howard, his 3-point shot is something he’s been working on perfecting for the last 6-7 years — before games, after games and at practice.

Howard said that he and McGee have gone head-to-head at practice, and according to Howard, the last time they got shots up wasn’t much up of a competition for him.

“I don’t know if JaVale’s in here still,” Howard said in the postgame locker room. “But I demolished him. But JaVale is doing an amazing job. Tonight he went for a three, and I think next game he’s gonna hit another one, so looking forward to that.”

Their practice has shown in their percentages this season, as both of them are shooting 50% or higher from behind the arc, albeit on a combined seven attempts. Remarkably, McGee was a perfect 2-2 from 3-point range leading up to Tuesday night’s game.

Will McGee and Howard’s shooting be integrated into Vogel’s offensive scheme? No, and it probably shouldn’t, but the rewards system (for lack of a better term) they have in place seems to be in everyone’s best interest. Plus, seeing McGee and Howard drain their 3-pointers at a higher clip than Ben Simmons is really, really fun.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.