He’s faster than a speeding bulldozer. He’s stronger than a 4Loko on a wedding night. He possesses 20/40 vision. He is (dun dun dun…..) SUPERMAN.
Well, not yet.
Let’s be frank; Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard’s career is at a crossroads. Once feared as the most dominant big man in the league since Shaquille O’Neal, this season Howard looks like Achilles when Paris shot his heel in Troy: a mere mortal. Howard is averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds a game in a Lakers’ offense where stats are often inflated.
Howard is shooting 49% from the free throw line, though the Hack-A-Howard strategy skews that percentage. His back is still not at 100% and his lack of intensity and focus has been criticized by media and fans alike. He is 11th in player efficiency rating among centers in the NBA. 11th!!!! In a contract year where he can decide his own destiny, his tenure with the Lakers has looked uneasy so far.
His recent ejection from the Lakers loss to the Denver Nuggets (126-114) is probably the most discouraging aspect of his season so far. Even Kobe Bryant and coach Mike D’Antoni dismissed his contributions to the game, further emoting the disappointment in his play thus far. Playing sidekick to Bryant (who, ironically is putting up MVP numbers) hasn’t boded well for the projecting Lakers’ long-term successes.
We gave Howard the “Superman” moniker that he earned during the slam dunk contest and for his freakishly athletic ability for his size. We compared his physical stature to Shaq, but Howard yet to average over 22 points a game (in comparison, Shaq averaged over 28 points per game four times during his career) and he’s 6’10” at best.
To his credit, Howard is a 4-time defensive player of the year (I would give more credit to Stan Van Gundy) and his field goal percentage is solid throughout his career. Howard’s post game was marginal at best until two years ago. The source of his points were put-backs and dunks before then. We saw how Howard handled criticism and media scrutiny last year with the Orlando Magic, and his aloof, easy-going personality is lost due to his on-court contributions.
We thought Howard heading to the Lakers would rejuvenate his career and establish his legend among the great centers within the franchise. So far, his tenure with the Lakers have simply exposed and magnified all of the glaring weaknesses in his game. Blame health. Blame his lack of focus. Blame Wale.
At the end of the story, “Superman” fights his own battles. And wins.