Dwight Howard cited for rare FT delay

ORLANDO -- After receiving repeated warnings from the league office about his deliberate pace at the free throw line, Dwight Howard was assessed a rare delay of game violation because he took longer than the allotted 10 seconds to shoot a free throw during Orlando's 86-78 victory Saturday against the Boston Celtics.

Howard was called for the violation as he lined up to attempt his second of two free throws with 6:49 remaining in the second quarter. He was then assessed a technical foul after he rolled the ball toward the baseline in what was viewed as a protest of the call.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said he had never seen a delay of game violation called in a game he coached. But Van Gundy also said Stu Jackson, the NBA's executive vice president of basketball operations, had recently warned the team about Howard taking too much time on free-throw attempts.

"We've had a couple of calls," Van Gundy said. "We've been told that the officials have been instructed to to call it."

Howard has struggled from the line and is shooting a career-worst .561 percent on free throws. His career average is .596 over seven seasons. Howard said he was aware of the league warning before Saturday's game, but he insists he won't do much to alter his routine.

"I can see if I was shooting 98 percent from the line," Howard said of being targeted by the league for his free-throw tardiness. "But I'm not. It's not stopping the game flow. It's a free throw. So the clock is stopped, period. I'm going to continue to do it."

Howard struggled with his shot from everywhere against the Celtics. But despite going just 1 of 4 from the field and 4 of 10 from the foul line, the Magic got enough contributions from Howard's supporting cast to snap the Celtics' 14-game winning streak. After the delay-of-game violation in the first half, Celtics forward Paul Pierce was seen counting with his fingers when Howard went back to the line to attempt free throws in the third quarter.

Former NBA post players Karl Malone and Alonzo Mourning were also known to take extended time at the line before attempting free throws. Howard said he won't try to speed up his mental clock.

"What that does is force me to shoot it the wrong way," Howard said. "I might speed up a little bit, but I'm going to take my time. I have to remain patient and not get frustrated."

Michael Wallace covers the NBA for ESPN.com