Home > Basketball, The Final Buzzer > The Final Buzzer: Belated Dwight Howard Thoughts (28/7/13)

The Final Buzzer: Belated Dwight Howard Thoughts (28/7/13)

Dwightmare 2013: The Indecision

Over the last three years, Dwight Howard’s impending free agency has been labelled the ‘Dwightmare’ due to Howard’s public refusal to declare where he wanted to play, his desire to be loved, and his indecision to make a choice and live with it. It’s resulted in one of the most dominant and popular athletes in the NBA to be vilified across the league, leaving only burnt jerseys and hard feelings.  Dwight Howard earned the right to choose where to play where he wanted. And he wanted to be a Houston Rocket.

How awkward is this year’s All Star Weekend going to be with him and Kobe?!

As a Laker fan, I’m sad to see Dwight Howard leave, but I’m not heartbroken. I really do wish Dwight Howard the best (if the best means every success short of winning an NBA championship…I’m not bitter…). He never really embraced being a Laker or sounded like he wanted to be a Laker, and in turn, the fans never really embraced him like one of our own. And that’s the thing with Dwight: he needs to be loved and he needs to see it. That’s why the Lakers paid for those ‘D12 #stay’ billboards.

Just one of the billboards that was mocked by the internet

[Tangent rant: I’m not as angry about the Lakers running the ‘D12 #Stay’ campaign as others are. People comment on how weak the Lakers looked for attempting to woo a free agent with banners, saying that it was ‘un-Laker like’ or ‘it’s pretty pathetic’  or ‘GOD DAMN IT JIM BUSS WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!’ Truth is though, Dwight Howard loves grand gestures of love. He’s a unique free agent in that regard and wants people to fight over him. While the Lakers have never used that tactic before to recruit a free agent, they tailored their campaign to what they thought would be the most receptive towards Dwight. That’s why I don’t blame them. If CP3 was the Lakers free agent (still a touchy subject…damn you Stern), you wouldn’t have seen ‘CP3 #Stay bill boards’. Dwight Howard is the exception to the traditional Laker way of recruiting, not the new normal. And I think we’ll find that Dwight leaving Los Angeles is the same: the exception, not the new norm.]

Laker fans wanted him to earn their adulation and love like two people who start dating and fall in love through commitment and trust (or so I’ve been told). Houston fans threw their love at Dwight like a cheap hooker and told him what he wanted to hear. And if Dwight’s personal life is anything to go by *cough* 8 different babies with 8 different baby mamas *cough* then Dwight was always going to respond well to the idea of playing in Houston. Throw in the fact that there will be less pressure on Dwight to deliver, a younger core including James Harden and Chandler Parsons and a city that is genuinely happy to have him, Dwight Howard made not only the best decision for him, but the smart decision.

Parsons and Harden, aka ‘Beauty and the Beard’, attempting the difficult ‘High Five’ after finding out Dwight’s decision.

But did he?

I mean he did leave $30 million on the table by bolting to Houston, being the first superstar the Lakers have failed to resign (apart from AC Green, but you already knew that). Does that show how committed he is to winning? Or does it show that he couldn’t handle the bright lights of Los Angeles? It’s interesting because of the different ways that people are trying to spin the reasons why he left. Is he leaving because he doesn’t like Kobe? Or is he leaving because he doesn’t like Mike D’Antoni and the offence the Lakers run? Or is he leaving because he can work with Kevin McHale, one of the most skilled big men in history. Maybe he’s leaving because Houston apparently has an amazing strip club scene which can help serve Dwight’s insatiable appetite for producing babies (I know I’ve already made a Dwight baby joke, but for a guy who declares himself a devout Christian, it’s pretty hilarious that he’s allegedly fathered 8 different children with 8 different women. I guess Jesus did preach love to all…but I don’t think he meant it this literally…). Maybe he left $30 million on the table because it would mean he would have to pay more child support?!?! (OK, that was my last baby mama joke).

The problem is, there’s an awful lot of contradiction as to why Dwight is exactly leaving, and throw in the fact that Dwight doesn’t like confrontation, he comes across as someone who wants to keep everyone happy while alienating everyone (apart from Houston). That’s why he opted into the final year of his contract with the Magic in an attempt to keep everyone happy before forcing a trade to the Lakers. That’s why he declared how much he was looking forward to playing in Los Angeles for years and wanted to ‘have fun’ before being ejected in the playoffs when the Lakers needed him most. Not the most ideal way to play your last game as a Laker.

So now Howard is off to Houston to play for a team that is supposed to play through Dwight in the post. That’s all well and good except the Rockets play an up-tempo offence that centres around James Harden creating off screens. Heck, Mike D’Antoni is jealous of the pick and roll action that the Rockets used last season! Putting the ball in James Harden’s hands and allowing him to find shooters was the best thing that Kevin McHale had ever done as a coach. Hell, we still don’t know if Kevin McHale is a good coach because the Rockets actually finished below the Lakers last year. They would’ve been swept out of the playoffs if Russell Westbrook wasn’t Russell Westbrook’ed by Patrick Beverley (it’s as if Russell Westbrook wasn’t angry enough before his injury. Lord have mercy on Patrick Beverley). The point is, as much as the Rockets are claiming that they’re going to be playing through Dwight, they’re much better playing through Harden. Why?

Because Dwight sucks in the post! I watched enough Laker games last season to realise that while he demands a double team. He’s not very good at passing out of one and it often leads to a turnover or a shooting foul which results in a Hack-a-Howard situation. Which would be fine if Dwight was a good free throw shooter (he’s not).

It’s going to be interesting to see the Rockets offence with Howard and if he continues to insist the Rockets play inside-out or he finally accepts that he’s the best roll man in the game.

And as Bill Simmons suggests, after 9 years in the league, he hasn’t really improved in the post and probably never will. He is who he is. Who is he? He’s one of the most dominant roll men in the NBA today…except he’s too stupid and stubborn to realise it. Putting Dwight in a pick and roll with James Harden with Chandler Parsons on the weak side would be deadly. The only problem is Dwight doesn’t want to play pick and roll basketball. To which I say:

Dwight – why you so stupid?!

This desire of Dwight to play post up basketball goes back to Shaq. For years we’re been led to believe that Shaq has been petty in his beef with Dwight. From calling him ‘too nice’ to their superman nickname argument, to Shaq’s insistence that Brook Lopez is the best big man in the NBA.

Why is Shaq doing all this? Simple: He’s just mindfucking Dwight. He’s playing head games with him and it’s paid dividends. He’s actually convinced Dwight to shun away from the most dominant part of his game in an attempt to prove Shaq wrong. Only problem is that all Dwight’s doing is proving Shaq right. We should just start calling Shaq ‘The Big Mindfuck’.

Shaq’s greatest mindfuck happened when he stated that he preferred Brook Lopez (the non–Sideshow Bob Lopez brother) and Andrew Bynum (who rehabs by dancing and supporting Playboy Playmates) to Dwight because of Dwight’s ‘pick-and-roll’ style of play. Dwight may have shrugged it off but now more than ever he’s insisting in playing with his back to the basket which has not translated into success in both Orlando and Los Angeles. Shaq has mindfucked Dwight to the point where he doesn’t want anything to do with the most effective weapon he has in offence because that’s not what the ‘traditional big man’ does to dominate. WHO THE FUCK CARES HOW YOU DOMINATE! JUST DOMINATE!

Of course Dwight may have just refused to run the pick-and-roll because he didn’t like playing for the Lakers, but isn’t it more fun to think that he’s not doing it because Shaq’s run the greatest mindfuck since P. Diddy mindfucked Jonah Hill in ‘Get Him To The Greek’?:

It’s amazing Shaq and Dwight shared this special moment:

The idea that Dwight wants to play more in the post because Shaq insists that’s what the great centres do is childish and laughable. You know what the great centres do? They play in Los Angeles and become immortal. George Mikan, Shaq, Wilt, Kareem all cemented their legacies under the bright lights of Hollywood. Dwight could’ve joined that list if he wanted to. Instead, he’s joining Hakeem, Ralph Sampson, Moses Malone and Yao Ming in Houston. Still great company, but not Mount Rushmore company. Maybe the lights of Los Angeles were too bright for Dwight, or maybe he just wanted to be in a situation that helped him succeed the most. He said that he wanted to be in a situation that would help him succeed and win.

See this is where Dwight’s comments get confusing. He says that Houston presents a situation where he can best contend for a championship. While Houston’s core is much younger and is better suited to contend next season, the Lakers have almost no salaries on their books in 2014 (apart from Steve Nash) and can throw their money wherever they want (hello LeBron and Carmelo). After firing Mike Brown (who had a really large mouth), they even hired a coach that ran sets which maximized Dwight’s effectiveness.  That’s why the Lakers brought in Mike D’Antoni, because they realised that Dwight Howard was most effective in the pick-and-roll situation.

On paper this should have worked. Steve Nash (one of the league’s best pick and roll point guards ever) with Dwight Howard (one of the league’s best roll men) in an offence designed by Mike D’Antoni (pick and roll offensive genius) should’ve been lethal.  Throw in Kobe in on the weak side as a release and it should’ve been an unstoppable move (and it was when they ran it). Except that Dwight refused to set proper screens, roll hard and fully commit the offence. You know when Steve Nash is frustrated with someone there’s a problem. Which is hard because Steve Nash might be the greatest team mate in all of sports history!

So when you hear about how much even Steve Nash was fed up with Dwight’s antics, the writing was on the wall.

It also needs to be mentioned that the Rockets are James Harden’s team. He’s their guy and is going to be the one who takes the big shot. Sure it might be a Dwayne Wade-LeBron James situation where Harden cedes power to Dwight, but Dwight isn’t LeBron. You can’t just give Dwight the ball in crunch time in the post and let him go to work or draw a foul. He’s too unreliable. Dwight wanted to go to Houston to be ‘the man’. What happens when Houston fans start complaining about Dwight’s free throw shooting costing them games? His tendency to turn the ball over? Maybe the Stringer Bell/Avon Barksdale dynamic will be more suited to Dwight and Harden than it is for Westbrook and Durant, or LeBron and Wade. I’m just speculating here, but I think fans will jump on Dwight and blame him for the Rockets problems whether it’s fair or not. Harden has already won the Houston crowd over (with that magnificent beard of his) and has earned his get-out-of-jail-free-because-he-doesn’t-play-defense-because-he’s-carrying-the-offense card. Dwight hasn’t earned his yet.

In saying that, Houston fans are probably just happy to have him there rendering that whole last paragraph useless…

In the end though, Dwight made his decision. I can’t fault him for what he did and it is sad to see him leave, but I’m not torn up about it. And it doesn’t seem like the other Laker fans are, either. All Laker fans wanted was for Dwight to say that he was ‘All in for L.A’ like he did in his Adidas campaign.

That never happened and as a result, Laker fans were never ‘all in for Dwight’.

And that my friends, is The Final Buzzer.

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