Riding To The Defense Of Dwight Howard

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I like Dwight.

There, I said it. He’s fun. He’s goofy. He smiles. He’s engaging. He talks to you in the locker room before games, about lots of stuff, when most “stars” are buried in their Beats or iPads or simply avoiding the 45-minute open locker room period as if it’s Matt Bonner coming for a bear hug.

And maybe those are all the things about Dwight Howard that so drive Kobe Bryant nuts.

But I like Dwight.

I’ve stood in line to dog pile him. Did it Sunday after his needlessly contradictory series-ending postgame media session. His ejection barely more than two minutes into the third quarter of the final game of the Lakers’ awful season earned him yet another Twitter-lashing from the greatest Laker of all, legend-turned-critical-analyst Magic Johnson.

Even before then I had ridiculed Howard for chronic indecisiveness, chided him for selfishness and criticized him for the overall insidiously poor manner in which he’s handled his contract business.

But dang it, I still like Dwight.

So I’m placing my faith in him now. I believe he will re-sign with L.A., giving him a five-year, $118-million exemption from further free-agent discussion and decisions that obviously fill his head with anxiety and self-consuming guilt.

“I just don’t want any pressure from anybody,” Howard told reporters Tuesday during the Lakers’ end-of-season interviews. “[General manager] Mitch [Kupchak] said he’s not going to pressure me. He’s going to let me make that decision and we’re in a good place.”

And that’s how I believe this ongoing drama, “The Dwightmare,” started: I doubt he ever listened to himself. Instead he allowed a thousand intervening voices promoting self-serving interests, whispering big market or endorsement deals or global reach or whatever else, to swirl in his noggin like piranhas in a fish bowl.

Just my opinion, but as the process slogged on, I don’t think Dwight ever fully embraced his own desires other than yearning to make everybody happy, of which only brought about the counter-result of being universally vilified, a la LeBron James after the Decision.

Through the self-inflicted surreal twists and turns of his final season with Orlando and his first unfathomably incongruous season with L.A., I believe Dwight lost connection to his own identity. What happened to the 23-year-old, fifth-year center who carried the Magic to the NBA Finals — one more than Chris Paul’s played in — and, like Superman, believed he was capable of leaping anything?

The process took a heavy psychological toll heaped on top of the later physical limitations of his back. With his image in tatters, fans everywhere turned on him. And now, after one failed season in Lakerland, home of champions Wilt and Kareem and Shaq, they’re saying good riddance to him.

By all accounts, including his own, Dwight could have sat out until December or even the All-Star break to properly rehab his surgically repaired back. But he wanted to play for his new team with championship aspirations on Day 1. Wisely or not, he did.

Yet when he didn’t possess his usual explosiveness, it wasn’t Dwight’s back that came into question, but his body language.

Then the labrum in his right shoulder tore in early January. He downplayed its severity at first and when he sat out a couple games to rest it he got crushed by every living legend now on TV telling him to play through the pain for the good of the team. Even Kobe offered such an opinion and later tried to retract it.

Of course, Dwight was already playing through pain, or at least discomfort. He underwent back surgery in late April 2012 and played on Halloween. Dwight had never missed more than three games in any season until his back last year forced him to miss 12. Steve Nash struggled with multiple injuries and played in just 50 games, but was spared the rip jobs. Chicago’s Derrick Rose hasn’t played all season.

“Knowing that I wasn’t in great shape, my body wasn’t all the way there yet, but I wanted to do whatever I could to help this team win,” Dwight said on March 5 before a game at Oklahoma City. “And you know, sometimes I have gotten beat up for it, but that’s fine. I took all those hits and I keep moving.”

And the hits keep coming. After Sunday’s Game 4, formidable L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke offered the opinion that the Lakers and Dwight — who still averaged 17.1 ppg, a league-best 12.4 rpg, and fifth-best 2.45 bpg — should agree to walk away. He wrote that Dwight had proven over the season and in particular that very game that he is not a leader, at least not one of Laker ilk, and not one worth the heavy financial commitment.

But remove the raw emotion from this disappointing season, the depths of which run far beyond Dwight, and think about this: Dwight will enter training camp in October with a strong back, a healthy shoulder and reinforced maturity. He will be of clear mind and conscious.

The 6-foot-11, 265-pounder is L.A.’s best hope for the days beyond Kobe. Basketball will again be Dwight’s driving force, the distractions of the last two seasons drowned in the Pacific. He will rediscover himself and reassert himself as the league’s most dominant big man in his upcoming 10th season, just as he turns 28, just as he enters the prime of his career.

Going out on a limb? What can I say, I like Dwight.

37 Comments

  1. elisam90 says:

    Is goofing around is a reason to like him?? Yes… As a NBA player?? Absoluty NOT…. The reason some players are buried in their “Beats’ or iPods it’s beacuse they are trying to get focused for the game, thing that Dwight does not do. The NBA is a profession, so as any job you have to take it seriously, be a professional, Dwight should learn that from Kobe. Yes you can joke around once in a while, but not all the time. If you have time to joke around, then you have time to practice free throws and learn to post up… I like the guy, but he has to change that childish attitud and learn commitment, until that nobody will respect him as a player. All he care about is: “I want to have fun…I want to be happy..” GEEZ!! GROW UP!!! Stop being selfish and start thinking in others,,, I don’t wanna hate you man…

  2. I Believe says:

    i believe Dwight will resign. The Lakers were able to turn things around and see what they could truly do before the slew of injuries right before and during the playoffs. They had the same record as the Thunder! Also, he will be in a big market making big money on a contending team. And with chemistry and a training camp, the Lakers would be able to pick up from where they left off. It will be the best desicion for him. And after Kobe retires, the Lakers will have have enough money to sign someone to help space the floor(Like Carmelo) for Dwight. It would be best for him.

  3. TTKIN says:

    I’ll speak for all Laker fans and say we need Dwight back. Any Laker fan saying let him go is probably the same type of person who last year said they didnt want to trade bynum for dwight and then celebrated when the trade happened.

    At least, I hope he is back. If he leaves the team after getting ejected in his last game then I will forever hate him and wish the worst upon him.

  4. magicmike says:

    Well, that makes one of you. He’s a quitter. Kupchak and Kobe had to say what they did in public. Get ready for
    Dwightmare II Lakers.

  5. biids says:

    Howard should go to another team with better chance of a championship and less scrutiny from team mates and media. Lakers is a dead-end.

  6. Kaanyr says:

    The Lakers dont deserve Dwight Howard. They stunk all season with either the best Center in the league or the next best to M Gasol. They stunk with help from the refs, their fans whine like no others. They are like a bunch of babies, And they traded a guy who cant even play to get him. Leave LA. Its a bad situation. He is a very good player on a bad team. At least with Kobe they werent bad, Just not playoff material.

  7. Dave says:

    The Laker’s problem is their loser coach and upper managment, not Dwight Howard. They replaced one loser coach, with an even worse coach! Mike Brown is an idiot, he only rode along on Lebron’s coat tails. D’Antoni is an even worse idiot, who rode Nash’s coat tails on what little success the Sun’s had. I know Kobe’s out, but you have TWO All-Star big men and you can’t do anything with them?

  8. SixerfanEurope says:

    If LAL can keep Howard below (WELL below) the max deal, by all means, do it. You’d be stupid not to. But if he (his representatives, advisors, whoever) persists in asking the max deal-personally I would NEVER EVER give that amount of money to a player with all those flaws you all mentioned here. Personal likeness aside, it would just be a bad business move. So in a nutshell: keep Dwight in LA, but not at all costs.

    • CCAS says:

      Dwight seems to lack the personaility to be a the go to guy. I would really like to see him go to a team like the Spurs. I lack enough knowledge of the inside workings of other teams, so I will just use mine as an exdample.

      Here you have a high skills Hall of Famer, a good team, Hall of Fame coach, a team that does not need him and will protect his health. Here he can actually learn the skills he is lacking and get healthy, still being on a realavent team. Even if he was there a couple of years, his value in the market would be much higher later. Of course he could also use the legends in the LA area, all comes down to his willingness to do the work.

      There are some other players out there that should consider this as well. Good team, good fundementals coach and willings to learn from your peers. So many young players out there that could be huge stars. Despite the incredible talent level of the current crop of players, so many of them could be greater. They just lack the basic skills.

  9. NBALogics says:

    Like Shaq said he needs go to Moves then he will be dominant and like JJ said wtf has Andrew Bynum done this yr. rofl? Dwight Howard played through pain and not being 100%, Alotta people who are not professionals complain about him but these are the best players in the world for a reason take his Job see if you can do it. I’m gonna bet 17.8 million dollars you can’t do his Job,

  10. james89 says:

    I like D12 as well but you cannot deny the fact that with his size, strength and athletisism he could and should be a lot more effective. To me as I look at every great player, it begins with the players self evaluation ,motivation, heart and drive. All great players add a new demension to their game every year. Dwight needs to challenge himself to have that mentality of being unstopable, unguardable and unpredictable offensively! If he would work on his footwork and speed as well as post moves and facing the basket 10 to 15 ft he would feel alot more comfortable which would allow him to possibly expand his offensive, defensive capabilities and range. I am hopeful and pulling for him but at the same time I am a realist and maybe he just doesn’t have the will and or the skill capability to do so! Maybe he is content at his current playing level. Even so it is still pretty good compared to the other current centers!

  11. ben says:

    nah. Dwight showed he’s not 0.0001% of a player Shaq was. but then, who is…

    • Bob says:

      Oh lets see. Hakeem the Dream Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Russel, Wilt Chamberlan, Moses Malone and David Robinson

  12. JJ says:

    Meanwhile his predecessor on this position is joyfully spending this season’s salary in hot Spain,not having played a single game for a year ;] Poor Dwight, he really needs to learn how to be a proper a**hole…

  13. sdadsad says:

    I am pleased to see someone acknowledging the counter argument to dwights play this year including his injury and actually mentioning the points that many people seem to forget to completely demolish him in any verbal way. Granted, play at points i have questioned but i get annoyed when people go off on howard and complain and mock while not acknowledgin the struggles he did have to endure this season.

  14. ThunderUP says:

    and 17 ppg thats weak

  15. LBJKIN6JAMES says:

    DWIGHT SHOULD GO TO HOUSTON & PLAY WITH HARDEN AND WITH A GOOD COACH, HOUSTON IS A YOUNG & UP COMING TEAM WHERE DWIGHT WOULD FIT IN PERFECTLY…

    • Mark Sparks says:

      Teams should not waste their money on Dwight. As Dwight always say, “I love going out there play basketball and enjoy.” Only to enjoy and not to win!

  16. NBAfan says:

    Dwight, you need a real rival to force you to grow up. Too bad Oden couldn’t stay healthy…Bynum too even. But why are you satisfied with being the best center in a league dominated by swingmen and guards? Why not aim to be the best player?

    No matter what team you’re in, you’re still you. It all starts with you.

  17. Max says:

    D. Howard, no doubt a likeable person. Needs to get a job selling hot dogs. Big mouth, nice smile, make a great commercial. But HE WILL NEVER BECOME A SUPER FULL COURT BASKETBALL PLAYER! JUST DOES NOT HAVE THE FUNDEMENTALS!!!!!HOT HEADED, NEEDS TO PRAY ABOUT HIS OUT OF CONTROL TEMPER! IF YOU NEED A DUNK YES, OR A BLOCK SHOT YES, WHAT ELSE? NOT. UNLESS HE IS GIVEN THE BALL ABOVE THE WAIST AND RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE GOAL, IF SO, THEN HE CAN LAY THE BALL IN, BUT NO WHERE ELSE ON THE COURT CAN HE SCORE. SHOOTS LIKE PLAYING BASEBALL. AND GOD KNOWS HE HAS NO FOLLOW THROUGH TO MAKE FREE THROWS. NEVER REBOUNDS ON OFFENSE. POOR,POOR HOWARD. NEVER EVEN TRIES TO GET AN OFFENSIVE REBOUND, JUST TROTS OFF DOWN TO THE OTHER END. SO SAD.I FEEL SORRY FOR WHO TRIES NEXT WITH HIM. POOR GUY IS JUST SOOOOOOOO OVERRATED! HACK A HOWARD AND A HALF COURT ONLY PLAYER. TALK ABOUT WHAT HE CAN DO? WHY NOT ABOUT WHAT HE CANNOT DO. SCORE!~!!!!!!!

  18. Magic City says:

    The Lakers would be wise to invest in Dwight, dont forget how he carried the magic for 8 years, The Lakers will have no problem getting players to join them, so if Dwight resigns and they get some good role players, maybe another star or go to player, There is no reason Dwight wont lead them to a ring, he did it with a decent Magic, also he’ll be healthy next year, and i am a huge Dwight fan regardless of all the drama from the past 2 season and i hope he goes wherever is best for him and i hope gets his ring which he deserves

    • Lakes says:

      in order for any team to win, they have to have at least two go to players. Like Kobe and Shaq, Lebron & Dwade & Bosh & Allen &…, MJ & Scottie. Like Shaq said, the one-two punches. But Dwight wants all the touches and everything starts with HIM and him only. How many championship can he get??? If he goes to the Rockets, James Harden will be more of a primary player longer than Dwight will be since he’s younger and he has the mentality like Kobe. He wont let Dwight take over. Mavs??? I don’t know..nobody there and their franchise is not like the Lakers

  19. Wrong Horse says:

    Injuries can heal. Skills can be honed.

    But mental attitudes … they are factory-fitted !

    They say aging brings maturity. It sure does, but it does so as soon as you start aging … which is at birth.

    If you haven’t matured at age 28 … !!!

    I like Dwight too. I like his smile, I like his mimicking, I like his pranks … I envy his physique.

    But if the Lakers are betting their future on Dwight … they are betting on the wrong horse !

  20. krespino says:

    For the years beyond Kobe? When is that period to start? Does anyone have any idea? If Kobe decides to play two or three seasons more, going after some scoring numbers, the Lakers will not be any better. Possibly worse. I don’t think Howard would want to stay in such an uncertain situation for many years. The Lakers presently are a disgrace to NBA basketball, losing their first playoffs home game by 31 points… That is a team that should not be in the playoffs. No effort, no team work, nothing.

    • Lakes says:

      First of all, all the teams that made the playoffs earned their ways to the playoffs. If you’re not good enough to win enough games to make it to the playoffs the you’re just not good enough (period). If u want to blame, blame the east coast teams that made the playoffs with less winning percentage than some west coast teams who didn’t. Second, if the Lakers need to clear cap space, they need to get rid of players like Nash, get too much money for lil productivity. Hire players like Matt Barnes, who produce and take very lil money. Dwight stays or not is up to him, but if he’s going to stay, and wants to be the primary player, he needs to show that he can carry the team. He probably had 3 or 4 good games at the most this past season. When u start having many good games, by nature your dominance will make u the primary player. Good game doesnt mean score a lot like Kobe, so quit asking for more touches.

      • Lakes says:

        Dwight keeps saying how he ignores whatever ppl say bc he can only do what he can control…what about his emotion during the game? He makes millions of dollars just to play good for 48min per game and he let his opponent out-smart him. He cant keep saying it’s a learning process and we come out stronger next game…He’s been in the league for 9 yrs so this is a LONG learning process, and stronger next game is not good enough. Smarter next game maybe.

      • Lakes says:

        Dwight is a great friendly guy and I hate it when other ppl pick on him. But sometimes they’re right about the way he’s treating the NBA business. He will not be remember in the future if he doesnt get his act together and start winning championship. Jumping from one boat to antoher, francise to franchise, is not the way to win championship. I make under six figures and I work hard more than 8 hour per day year round (no off season or whatever) and I still give it all my best. Dwight need to start taking his business deals with franchise seriously and treat them with respect cus otherwise once he has a major injury and his talent is obviously gone, he will get trade around like a piece of trash bc thats how they remember the way he treats them.

      • ThunderUP says:

        i belive matt barnes was already a laker i think. and i agree they do not need a 40 year old nash next year.Kobe has 5 rings can say mush more about him.Howard in his 10th year has none.He has not post moves ,no go to move.Hes 6,11 265 pounds built like a brick house he should be backing boys down and dunking on them like SHAQ.He is no shaq and never will be.Dwight with the lakers or not and not in kobes time will ever win a ring. As a matter a fact he wont win a championship in the Durant or Lebron time either.probley wont ever win one.

      • lakes is dumb says:

        your stupid they are paying nash 3million a year thats not much money

      • Lakers says:

        3 millions for Nash for having 1 good game last season is fair?? Do the math and see who’s dumb. Matt Barn left the Lakers and probably had more good games with the Clippers than Nash and he only makes 850K. He’s a great complementary to Dwight defense. Ok, I dont need to keep going on and on with a dude who cant do math. So, on to another note, if Gasol prefers to stay with the Lakers, is there anyway that he can take a pay cut like Odom did? Is the contract adjustable? He’s not producing like he used to and he’s gettiing paid like before. Same with MWP.

      • RH says:

        Nash is getting about $9 million per year.

      • Lakers says:

        thats what I thought. But that fool say it’s 3 million. I dont care if it’s 9 or 3 it’s still too much. He’s injury prone. So YES he will heal but he will suffer other injuries and sideline again. Even 2 million is still not worth keeping Nash.

      • chandler says:

        Um. Lakes is dumb. First, check your spelling. Second, Nash is due for 19.9 million in the next two seasons. Do the math. Thats almost 10 million a year.

  21. krespino says:

    For the years beyond Kobe? When is that period to start? If kobe will decide to play two or three seasons more (trying to reach some scoring numbers) the Lakers will not be any better that this. Possibly worse, as Kobe, Nash, Artest will be older. I would not be sure that Howard would wait that long in this humiliating situation. The Lakers presently are a disgrace to the NBA losing 31 points down in their first playoff home game, when they were supposed to display why they are in the playoffs…

    • pusha musha says:

      I 100 percent agree with you. Also, if you have Kobe Bryant – The best player of the decade, Dwight Howard – The best center in the NBA, and Steve Nash – One of the best point guards ever, HOW CAN YOU GET SWEPT IN THE FIRST ROUND???
      And if your answer is: “Most of them were injured”,
      1. You can say that about every team in the NBA
      2. This year Dwight was healthy in the playoffs and a few years ago he brought the Magic to an NBA Finals in 2009 and the Magic DID NOT HAVE Gasol (All star), or Metta World Peace (has hit over 1,000 threes) to help them.
      3. If you have 3 players that will go down in history on one team, that’s a dumb excuse.

      If you have an answer please comment.

      • PM says:

        The obvious answer is that they have the most over rated coach in D’Antoni. If they had a legitimate basketball coach, they would be able to get past the first round. Also, they are going against the Spurs, the team I think will win the finals and I was saying this even before Westbrook went down