The Lakers rebounded at home against Portland on Friday night after their disappointing loss to Denver on Boxing Day. All the fingers pointed at Dwight Howard after both games. After only a few games Lakers fans have already grown comfortable with and trust Steve Nash. They are assured that Steve Nash is not the problem, he is a solution.
So all eyes were focused on Dwight Howard in the last 2 games to find a problem, and they found 2 very different players.
In Wednesdays loss to the Nuggets, we were not impressed. On the second night of a back to back Kenneth Faried embarrassed the world famous big man on the court and in the box score. Faried had 21 points and 15 boards, 9 of which were offensive, while Howard’s tired activity matched his tired 12 points and 7 rebound box score. Howard was ejected midway through the 3rd quarter after a frustrated, flagrant 2 foul on Faried. Howard shouldn’t have been tossed, but it put the tired center out of his misery early in the team’s loss.
After a night off, once again everyone’s attention was on Dwight Howard. But the fingers pointed at Howard after Fridays game were praising him, not calling him out. His energy was a noticeable difference early on, and it helped the Lakers get out to an early lead at home against the Blazers. Howard had 21 points and 15 boards in nearly 30 minutes.
After Fridays win Dwight Howard admitted to TWC’s Lakers reporter Mike Trudell that his effort wasn’t there on Wednesday, and he knows how important his energy is to his team. He then confessed that the 2nd night of a back to back can be tough on him.
Howard is not new to the league, but on the Lakers roster he is supposed to be the youthful, energetic one. He’s supposed to be the puppy playing with, and pushing the old dogs. If Howard is actually healthy following offseason surgery, it’s inexcusable for Howard not to give that effort. If the Lakers are cruising in the win column, then taking plays and games off is forgivable. But Howard’s effort throughout the Lakers struggles is not consistent. Nor does he seems to have any sense in the moment of how is mood effects every part of STAPLES Center—from the fans, to refs, teammates, all the way down to how the popcorn tastes. Seeing Dwight Howard barely elevate over the rim or get beat down the court by Kennth Faried makes for some very stale, popcorn.
But After Fridays game, the fingers were appropriately giving Howard his due praise for the victory. With talent the expectations and criticism are much stiffer. We saw he can effect the game after all, and positive energy on his part helps the team. Metta World Peace has been tremendous at both ends of the floor this season. His hustle and toughness are needed, but they’re not infectious. His teammates have grown accustomed to his hustle. His intangibles are effective, but the rest of the team does not feed off of it because they expect it. But when Howard brings energy, the Lakers players and fans respond with renewed energy and focus. That’s the Howard the Lakers traded for.