I personally thought it was kind of sad to see Dwight Howard have to defend himself in a conversation with Sir Charles Barkley, basically saying ‘I’m not a bad guy’, ‘I want to win’, ‘I like to have fun’. Who doesn’t think that about himself? I have always thought Howard was an unusual physical, chiseled specimen, with a level of talent partly innate and partly developed through hard work, the work ethic of a winner or at least of someone who has a burning desire to win and realizes his shortcomings.
When he went to the Lakers from Orlando, I thought the Lakers had added the piece missing to turn them into a juggernaut again. Howard believes now, I think, that staying in Orlando, where he opened his career and made a name for himself, would have been best. He chased opportunity with the Lakers as the chance to play with Kobe Bryant was too much of a lure. My friends, the game is incredibly played with just one ball, which means that marriage was doomed from the start. It did not help that Howard was recovering from surgery, not permitting him to get into optimal shape before playing for the Lakers in the regular season and that he got hurt again during the season.
He wasn’t the man when he was healthy and appeared to lose interest when things did not go his way. In addition, a target that big (6’11, 265) gets fouled a LOT and other teams’ Hack – a – Dwight strategy would pay off with regularity when he could only make 45% of his free throws on average during his year in the City of Angels, an even worse level of futility than his career average of 54-56%.
Howard was drafted first overall by Orlando after not having attended college, so even though he has been in the league 12 years, he’s only 30. He would have loved to have had Kevin Garnett to do so, but he may not have had a mentor showing him the ways of the hardwood. There’s nothing wrong or unprecedented with a large young man being sensitive and wanting to be liked, but there are some fans who won’t be satisfied until every performance is a record-setter especially when your annual salary has 6 or 7 zeroes after the significant digits. They expect a championship immediately and every year thereafter and Howard has never taken a team on his back and delivered a trophy to the franchise and rings to his teammates. It doesn’t seem like he ever wanted to be THAT GUY.
Play, have fun, get paid, that should be enough for me and maybe then the fans will like me, sayeth the Dwight-ster. Howard got a big contract with the Rockets that is now up, making him a free agent. He does have a player option, which he could decline and roll the dice when the cap expands over the next few years. If I were running a team, I would make a run at him and then hire a free throw coach and maybe an outside shooting coach, another of his glaring deficiencies. One of those weaknesses is absolutely NOT defense, having at one point become “the first NBA player ever to lead the league in total rebounds for five consecutive seasons.” In 2011, Howard won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award, becoming “the first player in league history to have won the award in three consecutive seasons.”(Thanks to Wikipedia for the citations.) He can crash the boards, my friends. BUT, he should be signed and then accompanied by a loud “HANDLE WITH CARE” warning. A bad guy he definitely is not.
The Howard interview with Sir Charles was also striking coming as it did on the same day as the presser with Steph Curry upon accepting his second consecutive MVP award. The latter was breezy, relaxed, full of smiles and gags. (Curry’s wrist curls with his two trophies and his daughter’s entrance were instant classics.) Howard was almost pleading and apologizing and certainly not playing off his front foot. He needs a coach who will know how to handle him both on and off the court while maintaining continuity and lines of communication with the rest of the roster. No mean feat, that.