Dwight Howard is the 6’11″ center that just cannot seem to catch a break. Fast-forward back to 2013 when he became a free agent on July 1st. Howard left the 16-time champion Los Angeles Lakers franchise July 5, because he did not feel he could win a championship there. He became a Laker for one season and it did not go too well. Howard was plagued with a back injury and explained how he did not fit in with the team. All of these factors played into his performance as a Laker that season. The team fought their way into the playoffs only to be railroaded. The San Antonio Spurs swept them in the first round of the playoffs. Now he is facing a similar fate currently as a part of the Houston Rockets. The Rockets were one of the top teams in the West, but they are currently down two games.
Howard has to now be confronted with the fact that a champion team is not built over night. Sometimes it will take a moment before that championship dream is actualized. However, most people have the impression that his patience is running thin. The Houston Rockets are a great team, but will he feel that way after the season. With the series currently 3-1 in Portland’s favor, there are two questions that linger. One very important question is do Howard and the Rockets have enough steam to power past the Trailblazers? Secondly, if they fall short, will D12 be looking for an early exit?
This move to join the reigns of Patrick Beverly, Jeremy Lin, and superstar James Harden was done with the intent to win now. He is fighting desperately to erase all the past blemishes left on his track record. D12 does not want to be recognised as the player who came close. He has the talent to make a difference on any team now that he is back at full strength. D12 averages 18.1 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game in the regular season. However, in the postseason his numbers increase dramatically, 27 points, 14.3 rebounds, and three blocks per game.
With such great numbers in the post season thus far, what is holding him back? Some NBA analysts attribute this lack of complete domination to the versatility of the Trailblazers star LeMarcus Aldridge. He proves to be a problem for D12 this series. Though, Aldridge did not directly impact Howards ability to score, he has disrupted how active he is in the paint. He makes Howard change his shot, and there are only so many ways Howard can score. When the big man is not in a position to score he has to dish it off and passing is not his strong suit, so that can translate into a turnover. He has averaged 3.8 turnovers in this series that is a number he can work on.
If Howard desires to win a championship one day he has to further refine his game, and dedicate himself to the Rockets. Most Hall-of-Famers past and present got the multitude of the titles with one franchise. D12 will just have to follow the blueprint laid before him. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Magic Jonson, Kobe Bryant, and even LeBron James all followed that format. Bouncing from one team to the next looking for a ring is not dedication. It is inconsistent and a lack of patience. These players hung in there with their teams consistently growing and evolving. Then eventually, they began to win titles, because they knew each other’s strengths and weakness. These players fused together and that they functioned as one unit, and not 5 individuals. That is the kind of understanding that only comes with time. If he stays with the Rockets and gains that understanding this team will be difficult to stop.
Howard has one goal, and that is to win. “All I want to do is win. I understand how important it is. But I also understand that it’s never a given that you make it to the Finals. Nothing is promised in this league. You can’t let years slip away.” Hopefully, D12 will not see staying with his current team as letting time slip away.
Commentary By: Schelett Rickenbacker