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Gastelum: Howard is not the bad guy (Nov. 9)

Andrew Gastelum | Friday, November 9, 2012


To Laker haters everywhere, Dwight Howard isn’t a problem. 

To Laker fans everywhere, Dwight Howard isn’t a solution, either. 

Dwight is a push in the right direction for the Lakers, who desperately needed to get rid of the laziness of Andrew Bynum and his two bad knees. With that move for Dwight, the Lakers got a refund on one of the most logic-shattering players in the NBA (JaVale McGee wins that title three times over, unanimously) for one of the most hard-working.

Dwight is a true throwback to the big man of the olden days. Defense first, rebounding second and everything will follow. But to expect Dwight to put a fat championship ring on Kobe’s finger – if he even has room – is incredibly naïve. Although, it almost seems as though Mitch Kupchak made the trade for the Thunder to send James Harden to Houston so the Lakers could have a shot of coming out of the West. 

As we saw with the 2010-2011 Heat and even the 2003-2004 Lakers, it takes a little bit more than a roster move to win a championship. It takes time. Time to mesh, time to study, time to win. A 1-4 Lakers team is evident of that. But there is another issue that should concern NBA fans everywhere – maybe not those of the “other” tenants in Staples Center, though.

Dwight Howard is Dwight Howard, but not the same Dwight Howard we all fell in love with just because of a trade request.

He has been to the All-Star game six times, earned three Defensive Player of the Year titles, was a No. 1 pick and somehow made his way to the Finals in 2009. Oh, and he’s 26 years old and considered one of the best big men in basketball, if not the best. 

But he has also seen his public image suffer from switching back and forth between his favorite trade destinations every other week while still in a Magic uniform.

Some of the criticism came across as warranted, but the majority of it is arrogant backlash against one of the NBA’s move lovable, fun-loving figures. 

In 2009, Howard almost single-handedly took the Magic to the NBA Finals, becoming just the fifth player in NBA history to record 20 double-doubles in a single postseason. That Magic team defeated the reigning NBA champions in the Boston Celtics and the Three Amigos before being tossed around by the purple and gold that Dwight would eventually wear. 

If you’re a superstar-caliber player like Dwight, imagine having to wade through a small-market franchise with a post-Slam Dunk Contest Jason Richardson, a post-“gun in the locker room” Gilbert Arenas and a post-Duke J.J. Redick, while LeBron James gets to choose which super-team he would like to join on national television and Carmelo Anthony maneuvers his way out of the Mile-High and to the Big Apple. 

That comes just two years after the Magic get to the NBA Finals and vow to work to give Dwight some firepower to make a run at his first NBA title. Following that Finals appearance, the Magic immediately let Hedo Turkoglu – who had a ridiculous postseason – flee to Portland (then not like the weather, back out and go to Toronto). And then they moved key role players in Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston to New Jersey. 

But don’t worry Dwight, because we added a past-his-prime Vince Carter and Quentin Richardson, who is doing a stellar job of collecting a jersey from every team in the NBA before causing some controversy.

From there, the Magic got progressively less magical. And Dwight wanted out. 

He didn’t necessarily do it the right way by constantly switching his allegiances and distracting from his team’s focus. Maybe the frustration just boiled over from being told the same thing by Orlando management. Dwight realized he was in the prime of his career and going nowhere fast, yet he probably would change how he handled the situation. 

But the outrage is, well, outrageous. Why? Because if he went anywhere but to the Lakers, no one outside of Stephen A. Smith would call him out.

Think about it. If he goes to Dallas, Brooklyn, New York or even somehow to Miami, the outrage isn’t quite the same as it is with the Lake Show. 

So in forcing his way out of Orlando as Melo did with Denver the year before, a lovable figure suddenly turns into an outcast? That doesn’t quite connect, sort of like Blake Griffin doing anything good but dunking and playing funk in his Kia.

The more interesting question is whether or not he is treated like LeBron, where winning a title can erase it all. 

Either way, David Stern can’t turn this trade around. Or maybe I spoke too soon.

Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastel1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.