ORLANDO – Dwight Howard is as strong as deodorant. He covers up a lot, makes his team smell much prettier, and the Magic definitely don’t sweat as much when he’s around.
And when he isn’t on the floor … well, we present the first-round series with the Pacers, which suffers from bad aroma from the Magic’s perspective. It’s not as if the basketball world needed hard evidence of Howard’s importance to the Magic and the way they orbit around him, but here it is. The obvious. You take a franchise player off any team, and this is what you get. In a nutshell, Howard’s teammates shoot a lot better, dribble a lot better and look a lot better when he’s commanding the other team’s attention and covering for their mistakes.
Take Ryan Anderson, for example.
Anderson is a strong contender for the Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award because of the hard work he put in last summer, the hours dedicated to improving his 3-point jumper and the knowledge that 2011-12 would a money year for him as a pending free agent. Oh, and he also improved partly because Howard drew lots of double-teams, leaving Anderson wide open for jumpers.
But against the Pacers, Anderson seems at a loss. He’s missing something, and can you take a guess what or who it might be? The NBA leader in 3-pointers made and attempted is shooting 5-for-15 beyond the stripe in three games. That’s astonishing for a player who was often good for five 3-pointers in a game. Anderson shot 11-for-20 on 3s against the Pacers during the regular season but of course, Howard was around for those games. To say the Pacers’ defensive strategy on Anderson has suddenly changed would be understating it.