As Dwight Howard picked up his second technical foul in the second half of Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs (in which the Lakers were swept), he showed frustration and the inability to be a true leader and franchise star for the Lakers.
Seconds later, Kobe Bryant emerged from the locker room (on crutches due to his torn Achilles at the time) and Lakers fans roared in appreciation for all the future Hall-of-Famer had done for them over the years. Their true franchise star, champion, and team leader once again did all he could to help boost the Lakers; after literally giving them all he had in his legendary 17th season.
Now, I defended Howard at times, and I’m not going to sit here and berate him fully, but he simply was never up to the task nor the expectations of being the franchise star for the league’s premier team.
Fans may be upset as the best center in the game left them hanging dry, but in all honesty, the lack of passion and commitment he showed Lakers fans last season should give consolation in the sense that with his attitude, he never would have been able to lead the Lakers to a championship once Kobe Bryant eventually retired.
Maybe his attitude will completely shift in Houston and he’ll win a championship over there, but it simply wasn’t in the cards for him here.
Simply put, yes, he’s the best center in the game and a dominant force, but if he wasn’t fully into it or committed, winning anything significant just was never going to be feasible.
It’s the factor that Kobe Bryant alluded to when he explained to Dwight Howard in a “sales pitch” that, “You need to learn how it’s done first, and I can teach you here” and that he needed to listen and learn instead of doing things his way.
Perhaps Howard will one day win after truly learning, or maybe he’ll win doing it “his way,” but as of now, he simply doesn’t have that championship element to him. Maybe it was something about being in L.A., or maybe he just doesn’t have it and never will. Regardless, it wasn’t going to work out for him in L.A. because he never gave it a chance. He always appeared down or frustrated, and didn’t take it upon himself to make the situation better.
Many believe that had the Lakers hired Phil Jackson back in November instead of Mike D’Antoni, Howard would still be here. However, a player who wanted to be the next Lakers superstar would have stayed regardless of the coach, knowing that he would have the power to influence the front office in his favor down the line. In other words, Mike D’Antoni and/or Jim Buss will end up being the scapegoat(s), but it’s not their fault entirely.
I’m sure Kobe wasn’t thrilled with the Lakers choosing D’Antoni over Jackson (he approved of D’Antoni to Jimmy when asked of his preferences, though), either, but you never saw him give up or not willing to try to make it work. Eventually, he stepped up to D’Antoni after the run-and-gun, pick-and-roll heavy offense wasn’t working, and said “enough is enough,” but he always put his head down, went to work, and left it all out on the floor.
As the true leader of the team and proven champion, that should have inspired Howard to buy in as well and alter his attitude about the whole situation, but it didn’t. Or even when Steve Nash–who has made plenty of average big men look like All-Stars over his career–tried to help him out in the system, it should have given him some hope and encouragement. However, the lack of devotion continuously showed on the floor when his body language appeared listless.
Some of it can be related to his injured back, which he surely does deserve credit for playing through, as it hindered his offensive game quite a bit.
Certainly, the frustration on the offensive end of the floor wasn’t all of it, though, as he was visually upset on multiple occasions at the lack of defense displayed by his elderly teammates.
In that sense, the move to Houston may indeed be the best move for him basketball-wise as he’ll be matched with younger, more athletic players, and maybe it is the “right” decision for him.
It’s possible that this piece written by a biased Lakers fan is just “sour grapes” from someone who truly wanted to see Dwight Howard succeed in Los Angeles and be the face of the franchise for the the future.
Or maybe, the decision is actually the best move for the Lakers in the long run as well because the greatest franchise in the league deserves a franchise player who wants to be here, wants to take on the challenge of superior expectations, and wants to do literally everything it takes to win a championship–a player like Kobe Bryant.
Perhaps in the near future the Lakers will find that type of star; one who is willing to learn from one of the all-time greats and do whatever it takes to put the City of Angels on his shoulders.
For now, at least, we still have him; the true franchise star of the Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant.
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