Since joining the Los Angeles Lakers at the beginning of the season, something hasn’t been right with the once dominant big man, Dwight Howard.
Dwight is still great at his job. As long as he grabs boards and throws down the occasional put back slam, he can fend back the ridiculous “washed-up” discussions on ESPN and Laker fans trying to send him off to the Cavs for Luke Walton. Just the same, this is not the Dwight Howard we have come to know and love. Whilst in a Magic jersey, Dwight Howard was unquestionably the most talented and powerful center in the entire NBA, and most likely the world. He won three defensive player of the year awards, and at his finest, dunked his way into the 2009 Finals against his current team. Since then, things haven’t been going so well. After two more respectable seasons in Orlando, Howard threw on a headband and started going by “LeDwight”. Since toying with the emotions of the Orlando Cavaliers and taking his talents to LaLa Land, he has suffered the scrutiny of the majority of fans, a nasty back injury, and allegedly personal issues with Kobe Bryant.
I am in no position whatsoever to comment on what does and does not take place in that purple and gold locker room, so I won’t. However, I will say this: Dwight Howard is not playing to his full potential in a Lakers uniform. This isn’t because he is lazy, or wants more money, or is being a baby about his injury, or is a terrible human being. He just isn’t right for a Mike D’Antoni, LA Lakers system of basketball. I am of the opinion Dwight was playing his best basketball in Orlando because he had freedom to do whatever. He was the man. The team was built around him, the plays were drawn up around him, and everything was set to compliment his game perfectly. Was this because he is a diva? Heck no! This is a direct result of his pure and total dominance, simple as that. I still believe in Dwight Howard. While he is far from some washed up shell of his former self, he isn’t the same guy we knew and loved in Orlando. Thankfully, there is a plan to get Dwight Howard back on track once again. And that plan involves a change of attitude, physical presence, and jersey. Dwight if you’re reading this, don’t worry. I’ve got this formulated into a step-by-step plan on how to be better than you ever were.
Step #1: Stop Talking
Dwight Howard is a grown man living in the United States. He can say whatever he wants. Even if that stuff is inflammatory or stupid. This is a perfect example of the ideology of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
For obvious reasons, the departure of both Dwight Howard and LeBron James has been compared a considerable amount. Both of them screwed their former team, and left acting like a chump. After that point is when it started to get different. In his first year in Miami, LeBron talked. A lot. And all that talk made him more hated than he already was. He made fun of Dirk Nowitzki’s sickness during the finals. After he lost in those very same finals, he told a reporter that at the end of the day, he was better than his haters because he is LeBron James, and they are not. The next year, LeBron shut his mouth. No trash talk. No over the top self glorification. Only good things to say about the city of Cleveland. Respect for competitors not named Jason Terry. Overall, LeBron didn’t have much to say, and when he did, he said all the right stuff. Will he get his headband booed off every time he goes back to the Quicken Loans Arena? Yes sir. But for the most part, he’s repairing his damaged image without saying a word.
Now take a look at Dwight Howard. He is making the same mistake in LA that LeBron made in Miami. He’s talking too much. Calling the Magic “The players nobody wanted” wasn’t a completely classy move. His over-the-top embracing of the Lakers franchise one day, then wish-washy feelings toward free-agency the next didn’t help either. The cherry on top of the foot-in-mouth cake came after Dwight owned up to his actions and apologized to Orlando and the fans. A matter of days later, he returned to the Amway Center, only to roll his eyes when he was booed, talk smack about a fan’s mother, and blow kisses to the entire audience after throwing down a nasty dunk, something that used to make them cheer. Clearly the healing process has not begun in Central Florida. What Dwight Howard needs to do now is apologize again, and stop talking. When asked a question about the Magic, whether he means it or not, he should talk them up like they pay his bills. (Which they did for quite a while.) No negative comments about his time there, the players, or the fans. That will at least stop the bleeding of animosity between himself and the Florida ballclub.
For Dwight, the LA media is even worse. As he goes back and forth between acting like he’s already a free agent, and chaining himself to the Staples Center, fans are going to start getting mad, fast. What Dwight needs to do is be polite, professional, and completely ambiguous whenever asked about free agency. If he doesn’t make any promises, it may not exactly endear him to the fans, but it could prevent a firestorm over the summer, which brings us to step 2.
Step #2: Get Out of LA, ASAP
Dwight, you gave it a try. Who would have thought we’d ever be here? The team expected steamroll its way into a Championship banner is now struggling to hold on to 8th place. When your #1 competitor is the Utah Jazz, guess what? You aren’t a super team. Kobe, Nash, and Dwight were supposed to be the best Big 3 basketball had seen in ages. Passing, scoring, and defense? What a machine! While we did discover they were a machine, that machine happened to be a train flying off of the tracks. Things aren’t getting any better either. With Steve Nash unable to be the facilitator he used to be, and being forced into a role as a shooter, don’t expect much improvement in the backcourt, as the 39-year-old is signed on a 3 year deal. Even Kobe Bryant has been forced to take on a facilitating role he does not seem fully comfortable with. Even if I’m wrong and Kobe loves every second of his new passing mindset, he isn’t playing the way we’ve seen him in years past. When your team is so badly screwed up that’s it’s Kobe’s job to pass the ball, and Steve Nash’s job to shoot it, you know things aren’t going to work out. And, call me crazy, but I don’t get the feeling playing alongside Kobe Bryant is Dwight Howard’s favorite thing in the , wide, world.
So if not LA, then where? Dwight has expressed an inexplicable interest in joining the Brooklyn Nets, and was even connected to the Dallas Mavericks at one point. While Dallas could use all the help they can get, I don’t see them being a deep playoff team for a little while, and Dwight seems as though he wants to win sooner, rather than later. What about the Nets? Dwight has been trying like crazy to get himself into a black and white uniform for a few seasons and apparently has a deep and intense longing to run the pick and roll with Deron Williams. To be blunt, the Nets don’t need Dwight Howard. When Shaq came out on NBA on TNT and called Brooklyn’s Brooke Lopez the best center in the game, any thought he was crazy. But after the season that both Dwight and Brooke have had, the Diesel’s claim is eerily starting to look pretty on point. The Nest have skyrocketed into a top 4 team in the East, and while I don’t see Deron Williams and crew getting fitted for rings in a few months, they won’t be hitting the links as early as the Lake Show. Regardless of where he does play, it shouldn’t be Los Angeles. When the time comes, Dwight should try to pair up with Josh Smith in Atlanta or see if there is some room in Denver for him. As fin as those would be to watch, his best course of action lies in…
Step #3: Get Your Giant Self into a Rockets Jersey
At this point in Howard”s career, the best place for him is Houston. Howard has shown through his tenure in Orlando and LA, he is best suited for being the man. When the game revolves around his abilities and what he can do to contribute, he experiences greater success. This isn’t because he is a selfish ball hog, it’s just part of his game.
In Houston, Dwight Howard could be the man. Just the same, it takes more than being the only good player on the roster for Dwight to experience success. While he could be the man in Charlotte or Toronto, he would be largely unsuccessful. So why Houston? For starters, Dwight could get the ball. A lot. With a backcourt of Jeremy Lin and James Harden, there wouldn’t be many situations in which Howard couldn’t score if he wanted to. We often forget about the James Harden of old. Before he was picking up 40 points and 40 inches of beard length a night, Harden was the off-the-bench facilitator for the Thunder. To balance out the shot-happy Russell Westbrook, Harden dished it, only really shooting when he had to. Now that he is in Houston, he has to. And boy, does he ever. Lin plays the role of 2011 James Harden for this 2013 James Harden we see now. Lin acts as the facilitator to add passing to what would otherwise be a very shooting-oriented backcourt, dominated by a scoring guard. In case you were blindfolded, gagged, thrown in a closet, after having your memory erased the last half of last season, you probably realize Lin can score when he has to as well. (See Linsanity.) If Dwight is in a situation in which there is a weak middle, and can simply attack, Lin and Harden have him covered with getting him the ball. If Dwight is in a situation in which the backcourt is weak, he can cover for Harden and Lin with rebounding while they shoot the lights out. Also, the Rockets are just a weird team in general. They are full of unorthodox strategies and absolutely love to run the floor. Dwight Howard isn’t known for his speed, but at 27 years old, he won’t be hobbling behind everyone either. Combine that with up and coming and brutally clever forward Chandler Parsons, and the Rockets could have themselves one heck of a frontcourt too. The icing on the cake here is Head Coach Kevin McHale. While he never spent much time playing the 5 during his playing career with the Boston Celtics, McHale knows what it’s like to be big. If you can somehow make Omer Asik play up to his oversized contract, you are a superhero in my book. And at this point, that just might be what Dwight needs. If Howard was to join the Rockets, I feel comfortable saying they would be a truly contending team for at least 3 years straight.
Step #4: Repeat Step #1
Need I say more?
After one suboptimal season in LA, everyone wants to know what’s wrong with Dwight Howard. There isn’t anything wrong with Dwight Howard (sans an injury), but he needs a change of scenery. He’s been playing well, but not up to his potential. There’s no question Howard has the tools to be a great basketball player. With this skills and this plan, he’ll be Hall-of-Fame in no time.