Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
It’s impossible to ignore how indifferent Dwight Howard has been in a Lakers uniform. Rarely do you see much competitive fire from the former All-Star. Last night’s ejection in Denver doesn’t count as that hurt instead of helped the team. More often than not Howard has been invisible this season. Some of that can be attributed to Howard’s lack of a defined role in Mike D’Antoni’s system that is very much unfriendly to big men. Some will say it’s his continued recovery from back surgery.
However you slice it Howard just hasn’t been the difference maker the Lakers need in order to contend for a title. Of course at this point they just need a spark in order to make the playoffs. So let’s just take this one step at a time.
The first step in Howard’s progression as the supposed next great Laker big is to become a force on defense. Never mind whether it was Mike Brown or Coach No D Antoni, Howard has looked nothing like the man that patrolled the middle of the paint in Orlando.
It has become a common sight to find Howard standing to the side of the hoop as opponents finish at the rim. Last night Steve Nash even took Howard to ask in the first quarter for yet another defensive breakdown.
Howard’s Bynum-esque ejection was the most obvious sign of his frustration. It’s also become the springboard for a new wave of criticism.
Coming off of the debacle that was last season Howard desperately needed both a change of scenery and a renewed drive to show himself as a champion. Thus far the move to Los Angeles has proven disastrous.
Not only are the Lakers out of the playoff picture and a game below .500 but Howard has done nothing to dispel the notions expressed on this blog specifically that he has never been Lakers material. Of course those were just the ramblings of a blogger. Now it’s the rest of the hoops world that is openly questioning the commitment of D12.
Perhaps Howard is having trouble adjusting to an environment in which he’s no longer the alpha dog. In Orlando you get the feeling most of the Dwightettes would have had his back after last night’s ejection. Not the case in Lakerland as Kobe Bryant proclaimed the officials being in the right and Coach No D saying Howard’s ejection had no effect on the game.
Those reactions are in stark contrast to all the babying Howard received in Orlando. Now he’s under one of the biggest microscopes in all of sports. Howard, like many who don’t know any better, is learning the hard way that L.A. isn’t Hollywood. All his clowning around and smiling might be good for the cameras but it means nothing to the likes of Bryant who have but one goal in mind. In this town hanging banners is a mandate not a hobby.
From the jump you had to wonder whether what Howard’s priorities were. Is he here to win or to elevate his profile? What Howard fails to understand is that he’s got the opportunity of a lifetime. Whether or not he’s viewed as the man is irrelevant if he’s part of a Lakers championship team. Problem is at this rate there is no chance at all of a title and a 100% of another drama filled offseason for Dwight.
But as we all know winning cures all…at least it should. Somehow you get the feeling that even if the Lakers start winning on a more consistent basis Howard won’t be happy unless he’s the one leading the charge. Perhaps that’s the root of many of L.A.’s problems this year.