For someone who likes playing the role of superhero, Dwight Howard has gotten real good at being a villain. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant now have company at the top when it comes to polarizing figures in the league.
We can never refer to Howard as Superman ever again because Superman would have never left Metropolis for Houston.
Since announcing on Twitter that he’s leaving the L.A. Lakers and sign with the Houston Rockets, Howard has been bombarded with criticism from Lakers fans and former NBA players. Fans now playfully refer to him as Dwight Coward. Charles Barkley believes he lacks mental toughness, and Shaquille O’Neal says he couldn’t handle the bright lights of the big city so he bolted for the “little” city of Houston.
The cold, hard truth of the matter is this: Howard did not deserve the attention. He’s nowhere near the caliber of a LeBron or Kobe or Kevin Durant. Tim Grover — who trained Michael Jordan and Dwyane Wade — calls Howard a “cooler,” someone who is uncomfortable in a leadership role.
Drama seems to follow Howard wherever he goes, starting in Orlando and ending in L.A. His flip-flopping and indecisiveness overshadowed what he did on the court. All the posturing and constant waffling got real annoying. And the fact that he’s referred to as the best center in the NBA is an incredible indictment on the state of big men in the Association. Howard pales in comparison to other great big men who played against him and before him.
Howard has averaged more than 20 points just four times in nine seasons, and his best scoring season was 22.9. And in his one and only season with the Lakers, Howard averaged just 17 points per game. O’Neal averaged more than 20 points for 14 straight seasons, and won the scoring title twice (1995 and 2000). Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon averaged more than 20 points for 13 straight seasons, and David Robinson’s scoring average never dipped below 23 during his first seven years.
O’Neal has said that in order to be considered a true dominant big man in the NBA, you need to average 28 (points) and 15 (rebounds). Shaq backs up his claim because he pulled off the feat in 2000 and 2001, averaging 30 and 15 during the postseason in leading the Lakers to back-to-back titles.
Howard has never won a title and has never come close to winning a scoring title. He has led the league in rebounding five times and has been named defensive player of the year three times. But he’s a liability on offense because he lacks post moves and can’t hit free throws.
“Dwight Howard picks up two offensive fouls a game because he doesn’t know how to post up,” Barkley said.
Despite his limitations on offense, Howard insisted that the offense should run through him. That was his main beef with Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Howard desperately wanted more touches in the post and felt that D’Antoni never fully appreciated his talent. But when Kobe went down in April with an Achilles tear and Pau Gasol was out with a foot injury, Howard had an opportunity to show what he can do as the lead guy and whiffed. He could have backed up his talk against the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, but he was too busy engaging in hand-to-hand combat in the paint with Matt Bonner. He whined the whole time and quit on the Lakers, who got swept by the Spurs in embarrassing fashion.
Shaq was absolute right about Howard. Dwight chose to play in Houston because it was the “safe” move for him. He’ll beloved in Houston and James Harden won’t push him as hard as Kobe did. Howard can clown around in Houston and get away it. The spotlight in Houston won’t be as hot as L.A.
It was sad to see a great franchise like the Lakers basically had to beg Howard to stay in L.A., putting up billboards and massaging his ego. The Lakers are better off without Howard. The Dwightmare is over.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.