Less Pressure Equals More Success for Dwight Howard with Houston Rockets

By Brian Neal
Dwight Howard Kobe Bryant
Jayne Kamin-Oncea – USA TODAY Sports

Well, I wanted to write about this several hours ago when it was first announced, but for obvious reasons I found it wise to be patient in my writing, kind of like how Dwight Howard was patient about making his choice.

But you know, that’s the consideration you have to make when deciding on such a decision that completely depends on whether or not Howard has actually made his decision that is certainly a tough one to decide in itself. Right?

All kidding aside, Howard’s choice of playing for the Houston Rockets — which is finally official — instead of the Los Angeles Lakers is without question the best choice for him and his career. That may sound selfish, but it is what any player needs to do because nothing is guaranteed in life, especially in sports, and players need to look out for their best interests when it comes to contracts and which team to play for.

There are two things that really come to mind when I think of why “Superman” chose the Rockets over the Lakers, and why it was the right choice.

The first factor is definitely the amount of pressure to be successful and win championships. In Orlando, even when the team around him wasn’t good, you still saw Howard being dominant and carrying his team to the postseason and beyond almost every year. The culture of the Orlando Magic does not expect a championship. Not to say that it doesn’t want and hope for an NBA Title, but it doesn’t demand it the way that Los Angeles does. And really, there isn’t a more heavily scrutinized team in basketball than the Lakers, other than perhaps the Boston Celtics.

Now sure, his back and shoulder injuries to start the season certainly played a part in not seeing Howard completely dominate his position in each and every game for the Lakers this past year, but it was also the pressure. The pressure from the within the organization, the fans, the players, the coaches, the celebrities and etc. Changing cultures and heading to Houston brings a similar atmosphere to that of Orlando’s. It doesn’t demand a championship the way L.A. does.

Speaking of pressure from the players, that brings me to my second and final point. Kobe Bryant and Howard cannot coexist. They are simply too different of people, with completely different levels of focus, determination and overall expectations.

Bryant is the type of player that demands not only that he plays exceptional, but that his teammates play great and work as hard as they can each night — he represents Lakers basketball and culture as well as anyone ever has.

Howard is simply too different. Not to say that he doesn’t want to play at a high level and win. But again, the amount of determination and effort is just not at the “Black Mamba’s” standard. And Howard, as we’re all well aware of, is a much more laid back kind of personality that likes to joke around, even during games. Even when it’s a close game. Bryant is the exact opposite. So, you can kind of see how Howard was likely just very uncomfortable and unhappy playing for the Lakers.

Because of those things, obviously, Howard will never accomplish as much as Bryant, but then again, it’s not as big of a deal to him. You can argue all day long if that’s right or wrong, but at the end of that long day, it just simply doesn’t matter. The Lakers will be better for moving on and finding players that better fit the bill for their team, and the Rockets get a player that adds a great deal of talent to their roster without the same amount of pressure that L.A. forced on his shoulders.

I fully expect Howard to revert to the way he played in Orlando, and with a very good supporting cast between Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons and potentially even Josh Smith — which is rumored to be in the makings — the Rockets will have their best team by far since the days of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming half a decade ago. And more than likely, they’ll be a contender in the West for the duration of Harden and Howard’s tenure together.

Brian Neal is an intern at Rant Sports and senior mass communications major at Lewis University. Follow him on Twitter @brianneal23 and “Like” him on Facebook.

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