The best athletes have the biggest egos and the most pride, and even before he tried to palm Kenneth Faried‘s head last night in Denver, I knew something like this was coming. No, not the stupid foul, although Dwight Howard has a reputation for drawing one or two silly whistles every game. I saw an emotional breakdown coming because the Lakers have turned Dwight Howard into a glorified garbage man.
Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register wrote that during Denver’s blowout win over the Lakers, a NBA insider told him, “Dwight Howard is basically Kosta Koufos.” Ding also quoted someone from league personnel saying: “If you dropped in from another planet and had no idea who the players were, you would never know that Dwight Howard was one of the best players.”
Hyperbole? Yes. Even though he’s playing lethargically this year, and his opportunities in the post have been sporadic, Howard is still averaging 17.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a night (Koufos is at 7.6, 6.3 and 1.8). But it’s the thought that counts, and even the craziest Laker fan should realize Superman 2.0 isn’t holding up his end of the bargain.
Howard looks winded at times, floor-bound at others. He looks fazed, hesitant and tired. But not all of this is his fault.
Through the season’s first 11 games, Howard scored at least 23 points five times and was coming off a run where he pulled down 73 rebounds in five games. At that point, the Lakers were above .500. But since, he’s eclipsed 23 points just once – ironically, in a 28-point, 20-rebound bludgeoning of the Nuggets. He’s not getting touches, averaging barely nine shots a night over his last seven games while not taking double-digit free throws in any of them.
On Christmas, Howard played 38 minutes and got eight shots, despite playing a key role on almost every defensive possession against New York’s vaunted pick-n-roll. Because L.A.’s guards continually got beat off the dribble or leaked out on the defensive boards, Howard consistently faced down two-on-ones at the rim, asked all at once to stop Raymond Felton‘s floater, Raymond Felton’s lob, Tyson Chandler‘s dunk, and Tyson Chandler’s offensive rebound. Just three days before that, the Lakers beat Golden State in the Bay even as Howard was virtually nonexistent, finishing with eight shots, 11 points and six boards while being limited by foul trouble. Kobe Bryant took 41 shots.
The Lakers got swallowed up by Kobe’s assault on the true shooting percentage leaders at the start of the season, then had to adjust to having Gasol and his wolf/swan attitude back, then had to completely revamp their late game mojo when Steve Nash came back. Somewhere along the way, Howard’s importance was lost. He should be feasting off lobs from Nash, Kobe and even Gasol. He should be living in the paint. He should be running pick-n-rolls with Nash all game instead of just once in a while (that simple play basically won the Lakers the game against New York in the final five minutes). Instead, he looks wounded and worn out, and we’re not even to 2013. The Lakers are having trouble defending? To take advice from Shaquille O’Neal, maybe they should feed the big dog so the house gets guarded.
Everyone should’ve known Dwight Howard’s numbers would drop going from Orlando to L.A. Even as a recently turned 27-year-old in his prime, he’s contending for touches with one of the greatest players of all time, one of the world’s most skilled big men and one of the game’s best offensive conductors, and all three of them need the ball to be effective. Yet if the Lakers really want L.A. to be Howard’s city once the current roster regime moves on, they better start appreciating (and using) what they have.
What’s wrong with Dwight Howard?
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