On the eve of the first day of practice, Tim Walsh discusses...
Remember When We Cared About Dwight Howard?
Remember when we cared about Dwight Howard? When we sat in spin circles discussing his presumed changing of address, every day from November through April?
We differed in our opinions. Some of us thought he’d land in LA LA, to stake his claim to an acting career and play the Superman savior role for the dwindling career of Kobe Bryant. Others of us thought he would go to the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks, or even stay with the Orlando Magic. I hoped he’d flounder in a miracle sign-and-trade to the New Orleans Hornets or Charlotte Bobcats. And I’ll tell you why.
For one: I didn’t really care. I was more interested in the winding down of the NFL.
For two: I was anticipating the return of baseball and salivating over an Albert Pujols’ new beginning with my beloved Angels.
For three: I was gearing up for the NBA playoffs, that so far have been brilliant with the performances of Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
A sign-and-trade to one of the above two teams made for good news and even better conversations. Can you imagine swinging a club with a few cronies, drinking beer, talking about Dwight Howard in a Bobcat uniform?
“Billy did you see where Howard went to?”
“The Charlotte Bobcats, dude.”
“The Bobcats, they started from scratch when the Hornets moved.”
“Never heard of em.’ You gonna swing or not?”
The irony behind that trade would have made sense to every one of us who resent Howard for one ridiculous reason: He stole the “Superman” name from Shaquille O’Neal and hadn’t the decency to think of anything else. Just because he jumped nine inches in a superman cape to win a dunk contest, doesn’t mean he can stake claim to a mantle only real superstars can carry.
What has Howard ever won? A dunk contest. Oh, and Defensive Player of the Year, a rebound title and I’m sure, somewhere someplace, a body building competition. But besides that? Best Smile his senior year in high school?
Look, I’m not denying the man is gifted with incredible height and an athletic intangible to go along with it. But Howard has never and never will be, a franchise player. He will always be the raw inefficient offensive player who needs three other scorers to make him relevant.
Case in point: 2009. Howard and the Magic propelled passed LeBron James and the Cavs en route to their first Finals appearance since Penny and Shaq in 1996. They were manhandled by a superior Laker team in five games, a series during which Howard never scored more than 21 points and shot just 39% from the floor. Instead of Howard, it was Hedo Turkoglu who made a name for himself in the previous series against the Cavs, leading the team in scoring and hitting clutch jump shot, one after another, in the closing minutes of the fourth quarters.
Dwight Howard has been lucky enough to be a big partly skilled man in a moment in NBA History so parched for big men it makes Ron Jeramy’s addiction to sex look geriatric. In fact, Howard hasn’t, technically, been the best big of his generation.
Had not, Yao Ming broken a femur every time he stepped forward, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. We would be discussing the monumental career of Yao Ming, the man who bridged the basketball gap between two hemispheres. Instead we all know the unfortunate end to Yao Ming. A stoic soul with a keen, sensible, personality, and a meek humility, not to mention a 15-foot bank shot better than most guards and the body of a giant. It ended prematurely short, as all good people do, according to Bill Joel.
But Howard on the other hand, has had a relatively painless career. Until this year, Howard had played in 90% of his games. This is the only dividing factor critics use in discussing another big of his generation, Andrew Bynum, who like Yao, has been brushed off with injury woes. This year Bynum played an injury free year and equaled Howard in most categories (considering he shared rebounds and points with two other stars: Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol).
Andrew Bynum Dwight Howard
Games Played: 60 Games Played: 54
Points: 18.7 Points: 20.6
Rebounds: 11.8 Rebounds: 14.5
Blocks: 1.9 Blocks: 2.1
Field Goal %: 55.8 Field Goal %: 57.3
Free Throw %: 69.2 Free Throw %: 49.1
MPG: 35.2 MPG: 38.3
When I originally heard the Lakers wouldn’t part with Bynum for Howard, I though they were absolutely crazy (And they still might be)! Bynum was a spoiled-brat, pampered by Laker ownership since he entered the league as an unproven and awkwardly lanky nonathletic 18-year old. He’s been injured often and shown little to any drive at using his god-gifted frame. Howard was the proven somewhat likable and consistent veteran. And then this year happened and my philosophy went to horse manure.
Howard flaunted his egotism all year with a round about approach to answering one god damned question: Dwight, would you like to be in Orlando or not? And while his teammates concocted a decent year swirled with media malaise, Howard embarrassed his coach in live interviews and bowed out early with what some critics describe as a makeshift snot nosed injury.
Dwight, clearly, is not Shquille O’Neal. Shoot! He isn’t even the quiet gamer Al Jefferson is. I am beginning to think Bynum has more upside because of his offensive skill set and now for certain, Yao Ming with a dose of good health would trump him in ever major statistical category. You just can’t like a guy who flaunts himself around like a two-dollar hooker in a mismatched set of heels.
Howard fooled us all into thinking he was the funny charismatic star with a humbled determination to make his teammates better. Howard can’t even make himself better.
He shoots free throws wore, yes WORSE than Shaquille O’Neal.
He is outspoken a’ la bridal-gowned Dennis Rodman.
He is a quitter.
Dwight Howard is a quitter.
Dwight Howard is Baron Davis with a better body. You can blame God for that one. He is wielding a shredded cape, and shooting straight to Hollywood, collecting endorsement money and what will soon be one of the largest contracts in league history. But the O’Brien trophy will never be his if he wins one. It will belong to guys like Turkoglu, with the ability to hit a big shot and knock down free throws. Howard will be the face of the project but the men beneath him, the glue that holds his bloated self-ego together. If I were Magic owner Rick DeVos I would approach the Hornets and ask for the rights to Anthony Davis and a montage of role guys, and wash my hands clean of him.
O! But if only the world worked that perfectas. If only the world was just that damn ironically poetic it would be too good for words. Damn.