Well, that didn’t take long.
Even a Dwight Howard hater such as myself can’t help but be amazed at not only how quickly he’s recovered from back surgery but also that his on-court impact was so immediate.
Last night we witnessed what will hopefully be the beginning of a new and highly successful era of Lakers basketball. Even if that era is only limited to the reaming two years of Kobe Bryant’s contract.
Howard and the Lakers looked as if they had been on the same page for a month now. Despite the disappointing loss to Sacramento you saw plenty of warning signs the rest of the league should heed.
First and foremost, when the Lakers have their best five on the court there isn’t a single player you can afford to cheat off of to help double Howard or Kobe. Steve Nash will kill you with his ability to penetrate, shoot and dish. Pau Gasol will eat the competition alive with open mid-range jumpers and by rolling to the basket. Even Metta World Peace with his rediscovered game is a threat if left unchecked.
So for the competition it becomes a sick game of pick your poison.
Within moments of Howard being on the floor you saw the explosive and dynamic execution in the pick and roll between he and Nash not to mention the combination of Kobe and DH12. Then there’s the added dimension of Gasol and Howard playing off of one another in the two-man game.
But let’s not focus all our attention on offense. After all, we know that adage about what wins championships.
On defense Howard brings a presence to the paint not even Andrew Bynum and his large frame could. Whereas Bynum was a force based on his size alone Howard is an active and athletic presence that cannot be ignored. Drew is a quality shot blocker but he didn’t intimidate many competitors. Sure, Drew altered plenty of shots that in essence were turnovers thanks to the Lakers presence on the glass.
Now Howard on the other hand is the type that will make guys second guess even coming anywhere near the paint. His ability to quickly react, get off the ground and cover plenty of space is a weapon that cannot be taught.
We already knew most of this coming in tough. Again for haters like me it was all about Howard’s health and his focus that were the big question marks. By battling back so soon to get on the court and to be seemingly up to speed already I’m about to bust out a spork and get down on the words I was spewing just a few months ago.
Not so fast though. Howard’s showing was eye opening for sure but only in the preseason sense of expectations. When the curtain goes up in a couple of weeks we’d better see his inspired play translating to W’s because nothing else really matters. Still, it was truly amazing to see how immediate the Howard factor is.