A few days ago Hall of Famer Charles Barkley questioned whether or not Dwight Howard has the mental toughness to be a franchise player and to play in the pressure-filled city of Los Angeles with the Lakers. While Sir Charles has spoken his mind, unfiltered or not, throughout his playing career and post-NBA career, Dwight’s mental toughness is a legitimate talking point with the Lakers and the fans.
Therefore, Lakers Nation decided to tackle this topic in our latest weekly roundtable by asking some of our writers: Does Dwight Howard have the mental toughness to be a franchise player for the Lakers? Here’s what they had to say.
Ross Gasmer (@Ross_Gasmer12): The Lakers face a very uncertain off-season, and the biggest question mark is whether or not Dwight Howard re-signs with the team. After just one season in LA, most Lakers fans are calling for Howard to walk, claiming that he isn’t tough enough mentally to handle playing in such a tough environment.
Like I’ve said in several articles, I have defended Howard throughout, but I do agree with Charles Barkley’s assessment that Howard isn’t tough enough to be a franchise player.
I knew Howard didn’t have post moves from his days in Orlando, but it was tough to see him struggle on the offensive end. There were too many circumstances this season from waving the box score around in Chicago to not being able to handle criticism well, where Howard looked like the baby he was in Orlando.
The problem that Howard is having, which is all too familiar to what Andrew Bynum felt, was the fact that he isn’t going to get shots late in games with Kobe Bryant still on the team.
With that being said, Howard isn’t a first option on a championship team, but is obviously a great number two or three option.
Elizabeth Benson (@gobibs): There seems to be a tear among the Lakers fanbase whether or not Dwight Howard is the answer or a necessity for the future of the franchise’s success. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that a lot of fans have not been sold as of yet on the idea that Dwight is a franchise player.
When I think of the phrase “franchise player,” I think of Kobe, Jordan, Dr. J, Bird, Magic; players that embodied and represented the narrative and the vision of their team. Using my definition of franchise player, I do not see Dwight Howard as one, at least not right now.
That doesn’t mean he cannot develop into a franchise player, because he absolutely can. However, his attitude on and off the court must grow. Yes, the Lakers and the city of Los Angeles can eat you alive with the pressures that go with the territory, but if you overcome the media and pressure blitz, success in this town with this team is like no other.
I agree with Barkley that often times Dwight doesn’t overcome those pressures of being the leader and the franchise player with mental toughness. However, playing with the Lakers (assuming he re-signs) can supply the experience and training needed to develop his mental toughness to become that franchise player.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): It’s almost decision time for superstar Dwight Howard. The start NBA free agency is rapidly approaching, and the Los Angeles Lakers will want a decision from Dwight as soon as possible. Dwight continues to be on the fence about his immediate future, with the Houston Rockets becoming an intriguing option for arguably the league’s best all-around center.
Although the Lakers are ready to sign Dwight to lucrative long-term deal, the question remains whether or not Dwight has the mental toughness to succeed in Los Angeles as the face of the franchise.
Hall of Famer and NBA analyst Charles Barkley recently called out Dwight claiming that the center doesn’t have the ability to be a franchise player from a mental toughness standpoint.
As of right now, I’d have to agree with Barkley. Dwight has been unable to prove his worth to to the Lakers franchise outside of being a consistent double-double big man. Dwight has constantly struggled with the media and criticism in Los Angeles for his actions leading to speculation that he simply can’t get the job done in a big market like Los Angeles.
It remains to be seen whether or not Dwight can turn it around if he choses to re-sign with the Lakers, but at this point in time, Barkley is right on the money with his assessment of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Daniel Buerge (@danielbuerge_LA): This is a tough question. I think questioning someone’s mental toughness is tricky, and that’s something that a lot of people can work through and eventually get over. We all said LeBron James wasn’t able to have a killer instinct, but once he proved he did by taking down the Thunder in the Finals, we backed off that argument.
I think Dwight has the ability to develop that sort of mentality if he wants to, but that’s not what Laker fans should be concerned about.
The bigger question is whether or not Howard has the ability to physically lead a team. I’m not convinced he’s a solid No. 1 option on a championship-level team. His inability to consistently score or be a reliable force late in games (free throw woes, anybody?), limit just how far he can carry a team.
To me, Howard is a superstar-level player, but he’s the type of player that needs a dominant wing presence that can score at will and take some of the pressure off of him in late-game situations to truly be a key cog on a championship team.
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