Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Is it time to lay some of the blame in Orlando on Dwight Howard, or are we being a little harsh?
David Aldridge: You’re being a little harsh, unless you’re criticizing him for asking for better players around him. I’m not. On the court, his one drawback is the free throws, but you’d still take the overall package with that one flaw, right?
Steve Aschburner: More than a little harsh, frankly. Howard is at or near career highs in many categories, including points per game, rebounds, steals and PER. He is carrying a bigger load offensively these days. But opponents use gang tactics on him with their bigs, because Marcin Gortat is gone and GM Otis Smith hasn’t beefed up his frontcourt. It also is a reminder that, great as a big fellow is, he’s not initiating the action and is more dependent on the quality of his backcourt and wing teammates. It’s the reason Kevin Garnett, in his prime, could play on teams winning just 33 (2005-06) and 32 games (2006-07).
Fran Blinebury: If there’s a guy on the Magic who doesn’t deserve the flak, it’s the one averaging 22.4 points, 13.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and shooting 57.9 percent from the field. I suppose Howard could put the ball in the basket for Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu and get Jameer Nelson to play defense. Remember, the last time Orlando started dogging the big fella in the middle for all of the team’s shortcomings, that didn’t end up too well.
Art Garcia: Hard to fault a guy that gives you 20 and 20, but it hurts when Superman can’t make a free throw in money time. If that’s harsh, so be it. This is Dwight’s team. Kobe has shouldered the blame with the Lakers, as did LeBron when his talents were based further north. Howard needs to do the same with the Magic, even if Jameer or Hedo or J-Rich or Gilbert can’t find their strides.
Scott Howard-Cooper: He has hardly escaped criticism. Before, he was supposedly too nice, to where some people thought he was interested in a good time playing Superman and incapable of getting mean enough to push a team to a title. And there has always been the accurate analysis that, while Howard scores, he is that rare superstar that cannot be a go-to guy in the final seconds of a close game because defenses will foul him and exploit the weakness of his poor free-throw shooting. The best player always gets the blame when a team does not succeed. But Howard does not deserve the amount of blame he has gotten. He is the best center in the game. He is a terrific defender and an excellent rebounder. He is who he is. Expecting him to be an offensive force is just unrealistic.
Shaun Powell: Blame Dwight Howard for what? Too much humidity in Orlando? Certain things are out of his control. People need to stop with the notion that Dwight needs to be this all-around mega-star and simply accept him for what he is. He’s never going to be a great free-throw shooter or an offensive force from 15 feet away, but he can elevate the Magic to the championship round (he’s already done it once) if the surrounding pieces fit.
John Schuhmann: I think that when it comes to the tangible aspects of his game, it’s hard to put any of the blame on Dwight’s shoulders. He’s the biggest defensive force in the league and his offensive game continues to improve. It’s the intangibles that I sometimes question. Is he a guy that can light a fire under his teammates and lead them to a championship as the top dog? Does he have that extra gear for those moments when he needs to come up big? I really don’t know about that.
Sekou Smith: We‘re being downright ridiculous. Blame Howard for what, doing what he‘s done consistently for the past five years: dominating any and everyone that steps in his way? He’s scoring a career-best 22.4 points per game and grabbing his usual 13 or 14 rebounds a night and blocking a couple of shots every night. Sure, he’s barking a lot at the officials and will probably cost himself a game or two somewhere after the All-Star break. But the Magic are doing the same thing they did before the trade, so there’s really no blame to spread around anywhere.