Monday, July 8, 2013

Dwight's A Talented Diva Who's Made Plenty Of Mistakes. Houston Isn't One Of Them.

Dwight's A Talented Diva Who's Made Plenty Of Mistakes. Houston Isn't One Of Them.

By: Jason T. Davis  @WisdomOfSports

 Here are the facts: 
Dwight is Dwight...whatever that means
1. Dwight is a beast at basketball and a rare commodity.
2. Dwight has no idea how to make things easier on himself in any situation.
3. Dwight finally made the correct decision for both his personality and his basketball career.

For all his faults and questionable moves, Dwight is a great player and a winner. He has no rings as of yet, but he leaves it all on the floor. He's had his issues, but he plays hard. He's also been vocal about wanting that Larry O'Brien trophy his entire career. Although I admit, he makes it hard to believe him.

It's only fair to question both his heart and hunger. Some think he wants it, some don't. The numbers however, they stand alone.

His numbers have been off the charts his entire career. That much we can't ignore or forget. The man impacts the basketball game like no one else in the league, minus LBJ. It's not even close.

Still, there's the thought that we shouldn't have to question the hunger of maybe the most dominant force in basketball next to Lebron James. Shouldn't something like that be crystal clear with a superstar of his magnitude? Dwight simply lacks leadership and probably the adequate amount of hunger. Dwight doesn't act like what you want a great big man to act like. He certainly doesn't act like a champion. Let's be honest, the man is a DIVA. His antics and child-like nature keep us confused, furious, and somewhat annoyed on a daily-weekly basis.

What is it about Dwight that makes us question his hunger or dedication? He's made it very clear a ring is his primary objective, so why do so many not believe him? Is it his lack of growth on the offensive side? Shouldn't he be a whole lot better than he is by now? Does this lead us to believe he's less dedicated to his craft than he should be? Does it make us think he doesn't want it as much as he claims to?

Could it be his attitude or jolly spirit? Maybe if he wasn't smiling and laughing all the time we'd believe he wanted it more. Jordan wasn't smiling about losing. Kobe, Shaq, Bird, they weren't laughing or smiling about losing either. Dwight did ask for a better team, but he did it in a pathetic and cowardly way. He did make it to a Finals, but he lost to the Lakers. Most just don't feel he's the type of leader that can take his team to the promised land. He can be a huge part of that championship run and that's what he intends to do.

None of this ever seemed to bother us before. Now it's under a microscope. It's transparent to the entire general public. Dwight can thank his attitude and actions over past few seasons for that.

Does Dwight deserve all of this? I say, "yes."

Young Dwight and Noah.
He's clearly dug his own grave with fans/media/past organizations. He deserves everything coming to him due to his attitude, the way he's treated people, and a blatant lack of growth with the ball in his hands. When we as sports fans see that kind of dominance, we demand that you take it to the next level and hold yourself in the highest regard. Whether that be showing us your hunger or constantly bringing it with that quiet confidence. You have to be able to motivate your teammates and get the most out of them, not lose their trust and call them all out. Give us Duncan or Kobe, Magic or Michael, but not neither. There's been different links between greats: they all gave every inch of themselves to the game and their team. Dwight puts up numbers, but it takes much more than that to motivate men and make them better.

No one harps on Dwight if he stinks, but he doesn't. He's a dominant force in his sport. To be scrutinized this much you have to either be great or polarizing. Dwight is both.
The general public doesn't accept that kind of behavior or mind state from a main leader in his sport.

There was a time when not Lebron, but Dwight, was regarded as the greatest"physical specimen" in the NBA. His build and agility was like nothing we'd ever seen before. Every night was a show. Every night was a privilege for a fan of the game. You don't hear those comments or viewpoints anymore. That's because Dwight has turned people off.

Maybe the expectations aren't fair to Dwight. Maybe we should all back off what we believe he should be. Maybe not.

When it's your profession and you're that amazing at it, do you owe it to the fans to take it to the highest level possible and handle yourself with grace? More importantly, do you owe it to yourself? Should the truly great athletes have that innate fire within them? It's not for me to answer.

Dwight knows this much, there's only one way to cement your legacy: WIN. These past few years could fade away if Dwight lays down a foundation of success in Houston. Remind you of anyone else?

Dwight knew that if he wants to win, and win somewhat soon, Houston was the only option on the board. Kudos to him for finally making the correct move.

The Rockets were the perfect fit. The Lakers were the worst fit. Once you look past the city and the legacy of players and rings, there's no other reason to stay. In another year, with another roster and coach, maybe Dwight stays.

Should we give him a cookie now? Wait, no. He wants candy.

If you deny his talents, you're simply wrong

I don't want to start questioning his numbers. I really don't. The guy was the staple of a franchise for years. He brought them out of the pits of the league following Shaq's exit. He's put up numbers on both ends of the floor, even without much of a post game. The guy's simply a beast on the court.

He rushed back from back surgery to play the majority of this past season, his sole season as a Laker. His numbers were down some and his free throw shooting was abysmal, but he was continuously hurt throughout. You have to look past this one season to examine his dominance over the league.

Here's a reminder:

--ONLY NBA player EVER to lead the league in Blocks & Rebounds in the same season Twice--And for two years in a row
 --3x Defensive Player of the Year
Dwight with his 3 DPOY awards
--Youngest player in NBA history to average a Double-Double
--1st player out of high school to play all 82 games.

His Averages:
06-07--18ppg, 12rpg, 2bpg
07-08--20ppg, 14rpg, 2bpg
08-09--21ppg, 14rpg, 3bpg
09-10--18ppg, 13rpg, 3bpg
10-11--23ppg, 14rpg, 2bpg
11-12--21ppg, 15rbg, 2bpg

C' going to deny those numbers?

--Missed 1st game of his CAREER after 351 Straight Games Played
--Most NBA games Started since 04-05--Dwight Howard 1st w/ 696. Lebron 3rd w/ 685

Those numbers/stats are unbelievable, especially with the durability shown throughout his entire career. I don't have to defend them, and neither does Dwight.

I'm not going to defend his remedial post moves or ridiculously poor free throw shooting, there's no excuse for those. Both should have gotten much better by now, but don't pretend like the guy has no offensive skill set. He isn't "The Dream," but he isn't Robert Sacre either. The man and his game aren't perfect, but that's no reason to diminish what he can do on the basketball floor. It should be embraced if we can manage to keep our attention on the court.

The Magic and Lakers knew what they were losing. They knew that a big man of his quality doesn't enter the league very often, much less grace your organization with their presence. Look around the NBA, do you see anyone with his kind of body or consistent numbers? The man knows how rare he is and maybe that's part of the problem.

Despite the skill, Dwight always finds a way to step on every one's heels, including his own. His behavior and indecision have left multiple coaches, teammates, fan bases, and franchises scorned and disgusted.

The Dwightmare is real

Dwight tweeted this photo of him and Harden shortly after his decision was final
As of late, Dwight has consistently made it harder on himself than it has to be.

He has this unorthodox approach and personality that can drive fans, media, coaches, and ownership nuts. Everyone's left scratching their heads. He's an impossible guy to put your finger on. 

Everyone used to focus on all the things he did well before he gave us a reason to dislike him. He hadn't shown us the blatant immaturity.

Remember, he did win Rookie of the Year with braces on his teeth. Everyone was in awe of his abilities. He was the man-child that had braces but owned the entire league in the paint, especially defensively. He didn't get picked on or dissected by the media or the fans. There was no reason to.
He hadn't ruined relationships yet. He hadn't acted like an incompetent child yet. He hadn't even been in the league long enough for us to have time to sway to the other side. We were just enjoying this freakish kid. There was no one else like him.

Oh, the times they are a changing.

Sadly, and maybe appropriately, the majority of the focus in recent years hasn't been on Dwight's game(besides FT shooting). Like Lebron, Dwight showed us a side of him we hadn't known. His popularity and image took a giant hit, but he has no one to blame but himself.

And so it begins...

After saying he wanted to be traded to the Nets for months, Dwight changed his mind on the last day of free agency and decided to opt back in for another year with the Magic. This guaranteed he would stay through the remainder of the 2011-2012 season and the entire 2012-2013 season.

The Magic had a trade ready with the Nets, but they withdrew based on Howard's change of heart. That's a lot of negotiating time wasted. It was only a sign of things to come. After all the whining and grumbling, he chooses to opt back in. The team and coaches had already been spurned enough by Dwight's big mouth. The Orlando waters were now poisoned.

Shortly after, coach Stan Van Gundy confirmed the report that management had stated Dwight wanted him fired. Dwight denied the report of course, but the damage was done. Of course, this didn't create any animosity between star player and head coach. Why would it? Especially since right when the coach was verifying the story, Dwight came over and gave him a hug. Dwight was unaware of what the coach had just said. Dwight and his camp saw it all later and were not pleased, they were very embarrassed and hurt.

Former Magic Head Coach, The Master of Panic: Stan Van Gundy
Dwight then went on to miss the end of the 2011-2012 season with back surgery. Some thought he had finally quit on his organization.

 He followed that up by going back on his contract and demanding a trade once again to the Nets. Dwight wouldn't consider the Bulls or any other team, severely  limiting the Magic's options of what they could receive in return. Just another slap from the prepubescent teen.

And Drama was his name-o.

We were been blinded by his physical prowess and giant smile. His true colors were now revealed.

In the midst of this circus, Dwight continued to voice his concerns to management regarding the roster. He was adamant that the Magic needed to put a more talented team around him. In the process, he did a thorough job of ostracizing himself from his teammates and the Orlando community. It was over in Orlando. No one even wanted him anymore. They wanted him gone.

In August 2012, Dwight was finally traded to the Lakers. Unfortunately, the saga continued. Wrong coach, wrong team leader, wrong system, and the wrong media market. Dwight seemed excited at the idea of being a Laker, but not exactly thrilled to be with these Lakers.

The Lakers roster suffered injury after injury and things continued to go downhill from there. Dwight rushed back from back surgery and continued to play through a bad shoulder time and time again. They barely made the playoffs and abruptly suffered an early exit. Was the experiment over though? Most thought Dwight wouldn't leave the 2nd most storied franchise in the NBA for any reason. Right?

When the tumultuous season finally came to an end, the Lakers wanted Dwight to commit to the franchise, and rather quickly. Dwight was not concerned and decided to have all his meetings and take his time. He met with the Rockets, Mavericks, Warriors and the Lakers last. Following their pitches, Dwight retreated to the woods of Colorado to mull it over with his team.

In the end, Dwight chose the Rockets. Lakers fans have been in an uproar since and the media is enjoying the frenzy.

The Dwightmare had ended. Everyone can now wake up.

Why Not The Lakers?

For once let's give the man-child some credit. He knew the pros and cons of his situation and made the best decision for himself. The Lakers are a storied franchise but happiness is happiness. The timing was just off.
The late Dr. Jerry Buss and new owner Jim, his son.

To begin with, the Lakers hired a coach Dwight didn't want. He made that clear, and he even chose the coach Kobe favored. Jim Buss? He didn't care. He couldn't put his ego aside and make the best decision for the franchise. He couldn't put his shaky past with Phil behind him and simply remember the winning. He was being a fool. When you can hire Phil, you hire him. Jim Buss has no idea what he's doing turning down the Zen Master for D'Antoni. It ultimately may have cost them Howard, and it appears to have wasted the end of the Kobe era.

Dwight doesn't dislike D'Antoni, he just hates his system. He feels it doesn't use his skill set properly  and it certainly doesn't give him the ball in the post 20 times a game. Some would argue that Dwight's offensive game isn't good enough to warrant that many touches in the paint. They'd probably be correct but its neither here nor there.

D'Antoni has never even reached an NBA Finals. What's the hype about?
D'Antoni also benched Pau Gasol, stating he wasn't a good fit for the system. It didn't sit well with Pau. This is a 2-time Lakers champion and one of the most talented bigs in the NBA. Even if he is a bit older, his passing abilities alone made him a pretty nice fit with Dwight. Pau fed him all day when the defense collapsed. D'Antoni later realized his mistake and reinserted Pau into the starting lineup. This led to their run to the playoffs, which didn't even seem plausible at the time given their lack of chemistry, coaching decisions, and injuries to vital players like Kobe and Nash.

D'Antoni just isn't one of those coaches who can/will change their system to help win with a superstar of another caliber. He knows no other way, which is a problem. A coach needs to be able to adjust to playing styles and tweak their system accordingly. D'Antoni isn't a talented enough coach to do either.
Kobe pitched to Dwight, but never really liked him either. "Adios, man."

Newsflash: Dwight never liked Kobe. Kobe never liked Dwight.

Howard isn't that kind of blood-thirsty, tough-minded, vocal leader. He isn't MJ, Kobe, Magic, or even Shaq(still can't believe he took his nickname:Superman). He doesn't show his hunger. There's no menacing scowl or "I'm not friends with my competitors" attitude. He has no Mamba in him. Maybe he has no "leader" in him. I can tell you this: Dwight doesn't want to the "The Guy" in LA and doesn't want to be the guy who ran Kobe out. Even though he asked for them to let Kobe go in a year.

You can be certain that Dwight doesn't want that type of leader above him, either. A certified legend always putting that kind of pressure on him? That scares the kid. He doesn't want to be pushed that hard.

It definitely didn't help when Kobe called out Dwight for not playing through the shoulder injury.

Dwighty no likey.

Now keep in mind, this isn't the old Kobe. He's played a lot of minutes and coming off Achilles surgery is no joke. His numbers were still very good despite field goal percentage, but the Mamba has logged a lot of minutes on those legs. No one knows exactly what he'll be after learning how to walk again at this stage in his career.

Dwight wants to set his own legacy with others who haven't cemented theirs.

Don't bring up the contract. The extra year on the potential Lakers contract is almost a mute point due to that fact that as long as Dwight is playing basketball, someone will have him on their team that year. He'll be under contract somewhere. He may lose a few million in the end, but he can make that up elsewhere. There's also no state income tax in Texas. That's a pretty big deal financially.

Dwight liked the medium pond of Orlando. It was hot, like his hometown of Atlanta, but it wasn't the media hot spot that L.A. is. He was embraced, not ridiculed. Anything he did in Orlando was gold. The smaller markets are just happy you're there if you're amazing. They don't want to scare you away with knit-picking. L.A. is a monster that not all athletes can handle. Shaq just eluded to this same point Saturday claiming that Dwight doesn't want all that pressure. Stating he basically had to run from it.

Why The Rockets?
With James Harden, the Rockets took a giant leap towards the days of 1994-95

Houston was a no-brainer. In fact, I would've felt bad for the guy if he picked any of the other teams after him, including the Lakers.

The Rockets had the best and youngest star to offer Dwight: James Harden.

James is one chill fella. He dates a stripper, makes money off his facial hair, stays out of trouble, and handles his business on the court nightly. You absolutely never see him yelling at his teammates or questioning their toughness. He's the kind of star that can take over at any point, but will defer if it's working for someone else. All his teammates and coaches adore him. He's the anti-Kobe in every way: personality, age, reputation, mentality, communication and even leadership style. Sounds perfect for Dwight.

Coach Kevin McHale is one of the best big men to ever play the game and he really understands players. He knows how to spot and handle talent/egos. He saw the greatness in Kevin Love and swapped him for OJ Mayo on draft day. Stinks for Memphis. You never hear his players calling him out during or after their time under his reign. McHale's personality is a great fit for Howard. They'll pair very nicely together.

McHale, Rockets Coach, was a great player during the 80's for the Boston Celtics
Dwight and Van Gundy's relationship was very strained in Orlando. Remember when Shaq called SVG "The Master of Panic?" It was spot-on. There's a reason Riley decided to replace him on the sidelines and go on to lead that Heat roster to a title. Dwight loves McHale, so it should be a graceful transition.

Daryl "The Wizard" Morey: He might be the best GM in the NBA. At this time last year, Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin were the Rockets' best players. Now there's Lin, Parson, Harden, Asik(at least for now), and Dwight. That's an insane upgrade in one short year.

The Rockets are on their way up, the Lakers are quickly on their way down. That seems pretty clear to an unbiased fan.  One team is young, one is old. One has a stale leader, one has a fresh leader. All Lakers fans really need to accept that they need to rebuild. It's a reality for at least a few seasons.

With a young core and a GM who knows how to build in the new CBA, the Rockets should be very good for a long time. They're not there yet, but they're very close.

Lastly: "The Dream"

Hakeem might be the most talented offensive Center to ever play
Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon had some serious influence on Houston's pitch to Dwight. He's offered his training services to Dwight basically year round when he's in town. Dwight supposedly kept mentioning two names during his interview with Stephen A. Smith: McHale and Olajuwon.

Howard's much better than he used to be offensively. Maybe he can even take it to another level. That still remains to be seen after nine seasons, but anything's possible in the world of Dwight Howard.

Can he improve his personality and decision making? Yes. Will he? Who knows, but this is certain: Winning cures all.

The point remains as follows:
-Dwight is a special talent regardless of his basketball or decision making/working relationship deficits.
-Dwight has made a mockery of his word, his name, and his relationships with former teammates/organization employees and deserves the backlash that's come his way.
-Dwight has finally made the correct decision for both his personality, and his chance at winning a ring.

~Jason T. Davis  @WisdomOfSports