On Monday, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol lined up on opposite ends of the court – Howard with Stephen A. Smith and Gasol with T.J. Simers of the L.A. Times — and took some freebies. Only, they just weren’t physically at the free throw line.
Let’s take a look at what they said, and what they were saying.
Dwight Howard with Stephen A. Smith
Dwight was never particularly good at free throws, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see him clank a few off these off the back-iron. But, according to Superman, he was 90 percent from the charity stripe in high school, so let’s go into this with an open mind.
“The reason why I play basketball is because I want to be one of the greatest to ever play. I have a great opportunity and a great chance to do that in LA, but it takes time.”
This is where the water gets murky for Howard. He’s said this before, but continues to display the underwhelming intensity and poor body language that have turned fans and coaches off for years. It’s an admirable statement to make, and to be fair, he does have the accolades in his favor:
- First player in NBA history to win 3 consecutive defensive player of the year awards
- Led NBA in rebounds five consecutive years
- Finished top-5 in MVP voting four times
- Seven-time All-Star
- Led Orlando Magic to 2009-’10 NBA Finals
But actions speak louder than words, and despite the impressive resume, for the large part of Howard’s career, he’s reaped the benefits of being the most physically imposing player in the league. He was able to play with that fun and carefree attitude he claims to need to be productive. He is no longer a player whose team is good for 50-plus wins no matter who he’s playing with.
According to Steve Aschburner of NBA.com, one Eastern Conference scout believes, “This is about Dwight … he’s not totally committed to being there and playing in that system. Under Mike Brown, he was going to be a focal point. When you make the coaching change and move to the style of play D’Antoni prefers, it doesn’t include making sure the ball goes through Dwight and back out in order to get the offense going. His effort has been comical at times. He wants the ball but has no intention of working for it.”
“These people aren’t playing though. We are the ones out there playing. And if you look at the years when Kobe won with Shaq, when Shaq first got to LA they didn’t win. Everyone knows what happened to them. It took them three years.”
Howard may have air-balled this one. Stephen A. Smith tossed Dwight one right down the middle, “When you say it takes time, Laker fans are saying we don’t have time. It’s almost over for Kobe.”
What Howard failed to mention is that Lakers team won 56 games – a feat only two or three teams may accomplish this season – and made it to the Western Conference Semi’s before losing to Stockon and Malone’s famous Utah Jazz team. The next year they would win 61 games and lose to the Jazz again, this time in the Western Conference Finals.
Shaq was a behemoth, yes, but not a leader. And Kobe was an 18-year old kid out of high school, not the five-time champion and living legend he is today. Their point guard was Nick Van Exel – not quite Steve Nash – and Shaq’s running mate up front was Elden Campbell, not Pau Gasol.
If Howard truly believes that his Lakers team is on that same three-year plan (starting now) than maybe this is a little harsh, but it sounds like Dwight doesn’t regard a current 23-26 record, a battle for the final playoff spot and a likely first round exit a failure.