We have yet to actually witness the first of what will undoubtedly be countless brilliant plays from Dwight Howard in a Lakers uniform, and folks are already beginning to panic. Look, I’m no myopic fan with his head buried beneath the sand. I’ve been every bit as concerned as the next individual. I just won’t allow the disappointment of a meaningless loss cloud my mind to the point that I ignore the gaping hole in the center of the lineup.
Regardless of whether you believe the ESPN rankings, Dwight Howard is a top-5 player in this league. Question his offensive skill set all you’d like, but the 26-year-old center will absolutely shock some of his most ardent detractors. As the primary offensive weapon with a roster full of spot-up shooters (in Orlando), Howard was saddled with having to shoulder too much of the offensive burden.
Howard has still produced to the tune of (approximately) 20.5 ppG and 14 rpg over the past three seasons. For those worrying about shot attempts and chemistry, Howard has never needed more than 13.4 shot attempts per game. As a point of reference, Andrew Bynum shot the ball 13.3 times per game in 2011-12 (his career high) and still complained about touches. My point is, with Steve Nash working the ball around and keeping everyone involved, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Howard’s 2012-13 numbers as the best of his career.
Put simply, I think Howard is going to be a beast this season. While it may still be Kobe Bryant’s team (as it should be), Howard may prove all of his doubters/detractors wrong with what I’m predicting to be an MVP-type season. Much has been made of some of Bryant’s recent comments on a wide range of topics, but I happen to agree with the 14-time All-Star:
Dwight has a lot of that (“mean streak”) in him. He just needs to bring it out and make guys pay every single day. You have to have a little bit of that in you..Make the guy who’s guarding him think about if he wants to play in the NBA anymore
While I’m certainly not one to tell another man to change his ways and true personality, I would also like Howard to embrace his inner ‘dark side’. In fact, with Superman and Iron Man already taken, and Dwight Howard openly asking for help, I’d like to recommend that Howard select the ‘Black Panther‘ (Marvel Comics) as his alter ego. Much like Bryant will transition into Black Mamba mode when times get tough, I’d like to see Howard and Gasol (Black Swan) adopt that same “take no prisoners’ approach.
Remember the difference in Shaquille O’Neal’s game from 1998 into Phil Jackson’s first year (1999)? O’Neal, while highly effective, was still widely considered a guy that hadn’t been able to get his team over the hump. In walks (struts) the presence and championship pedigree of a guy like Jackson, and O’Neal immediately takes that next step while nearly becoming the first unanimous MVP winner (1999-00) as well as a string of three consecutive (2000-02) NBA Finals MVP’s.
In fact, what was CNN Sports writer Fred Hickman thinking by giving that MVP vote to Allen Iverson that year?
Well, Howard has the opportunity to do something O’Neal wasn’t able to do. In fact, Howard can become the first Lakers big man to ever join the team and lead the heralded franchise to a title in his first year. For a man hesitant to walk in another man’s shadow, Howard has the opportunity to blaze his own path.
Thankfully, we don’t seem too far away from being able to witness him begin his journey on the court. Once this team is fully assembled, I have a feeling all worry and doubt will be soothed and removed.
In case you missed it: Kobe talks A-Rod, growing up in a family of “a-holes.”
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