It’s been a busy few days here at Next Impulse Sports. Along with some amazing coverage of everything from the MLB Playoffs to the BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher, we’ve also been counting the (business) days until the NBA season tips off.
In the spirit of TGIF we’ve reached a storyline that couldn’t be more relieving to watch from afar, here in Los Angeles. Last season was a brutal experience seeing the Lakers and their fans[i] struggle through the insufferable Dwight Howard debacle.
If there is one player in the NBA who is worthy of a ridiculous list with pictures of emotional manic pixie dream girls to explain how he’s feeling, it’s Dwight Howard. Seriously, it’s the ONE time you really do need the pictures.[ii] Alas, no one has made that list yet[iii]. Le sigh.
#7: Houston Has A Howard Problem
Dwight Howard is now playing for his 3rd NBA team in as many seasons as he gets ready to start his 10th campaign as a pro.
Think about that.
Howard is supposedly the best big man of his generation so if that seems like an awful lot of movement for a guy who should, at this point in his career, be settled and constantly pursuing championships, that’s because it is.
For all the accolades that have been hoisted on him by writers[iv] and by the league itself[v], the fact remains that Howard has only been to the NBA Finals once and the both of the franchises that he’s played for have publicly been disappointed when he left; but privately they’ve been relieved[vi].
But despite his record, Howard looks the part of NBA superhero, so teams are willing to sell their souls land him.
This time, it’s the Houston Rockets. It’s a franchise that has a storied history of big men that spans the globe and they went around the world in their pursuit of Howard. All it took was the Rockets basically offering him everything and more for Howard to sign.
It just makes you wonder, how a franchise with so much experience with what it takes to successfully patrol the paint, could ignore the siren song of the undersized center?
Everything was already in place for the Rockets. They had managed to land Jeremy Lin, who while he was never going to be Linsanity for his entire career is a solid NBA point guard who can shoot and score the ball. Then they pulled off the trade of decade (benefiting from a cheap owner in Oklahoma City[vii] ) and acquiring a face-of-the-franchise level superstar in James Harden. All while they were quietly putting together a fun roster of fill-ins that could make open shots and played hard on defense.
Then they got greedy.
Howard has already started to ruffle some feathers in Houston. And it won’t be long before Harden realizes what Kobe Bryant always knew: Dwight Howard doesn’t have it.
The reasons Howard chose Houston were primal. He didn’t like the bright lights and the harsh criticism that came with playing in LA. He despised the fact that he wasn’t the face of the franchise. He hated that he was challenged by his teammates, coaches, the fans and the media on everything from his injury and recovery to his lackluster effort at times in games. And it happened every.day. Howard couldn’t handle it.
Houston provided a chance to hide. A new franchise that would tell him everything he wanted to hear without mentioning the hard, hard work that he would have to do to reach the levels he supposedly wants to reach. A place where basketball isn’t the number one sport and fans are seemingly happy to compete.
The only problem with this plan is the rest of the NBA knows where Howard is, and they’re coming for him. And unlike at his previous stops, his new teammates won’t fall on the on the sword for him this time. They’ll be too busy grinding their own axes.
James Harden is a monster. His cold parting from the Thunder awakened a man hell-bent on proving to everyone he was worthy of max money and didn’t need to be anyone’s 6th man.
Jeremy Lin is looking to rebound from a so-so season and prove to himself and the NBA community at large, that Linsanity wasn’t a fluke and that the Knicks made a terrible mistake in letting him leave.
Even Rockets’ head coach Kevin McHale is looking at Houston as a place to rebuild his legacy. Things didn’t end well for him in Minnesota and it took a year working as a television analyst for one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest players to get another shot. It should be noted that McHale was 56% career scorer in his playing days, so the man isn’t accustomed to missing and if last year was any indication, he’s planning on Houston being his vindication.
Not exactly the place for someone looking to hide out and coast along on a fake smile and goofy impressions.
The Houston Rockets are a young team looking to prove themselves, but unfortunately they’ve gone into space with the league’s flightiest player. As soon as he isn’t getting enough shots or he feels slighted, or someone calls him out for his shortcomings, Dwight Howard will return to his true self. And that’s when the all too familiar call will go out…
Houston, we have a problem.
Only this time, on his third NBA team, facing his 3rd strike, there will be no one left to answer, except for Dwight Howard.
::::The Countdown is off until Monday. Have a great weekend. See you on Monday for #6::::
Want to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or favorite Buzzfeed lists, hit Scott at [email protected]
Scott Christopher is a comedian and writer based in Los Angeles. Follow him @ScottC47
[i] Say what you will when it comes to being flakey recently in their support of the Dodgers (not like the organization didn’t put their fans through hell during the Frank McCourt years) there is one thing LA stands strong on: Their unwavering, almost unrealistic, blind love, of the Lakers. We’ll get into this deeper next week in another storyline—but if the residents of Los Angeles (not the transplants) deserve credit for anything in the world of sports, it’s Lakers fans. Shout out to Jordan, Dave, Roman, Amar, Amish, Jordan again, Matt and all the other LA locals who have religiously defended even the most ridiculous Laker things and have shown me that this transient city does have roots… Okay. Glad that we did that. It’ll make what’s coming next week easier to swallow.
[ii] Just incase you’re wondering what that would look like, thanks to other people on the internet, you can see it exactly:
This just became my favorite thing on the Internet. Big ups to our Editor-in-Chief, Kiley Kmiec, for the find. This Buzzfeed feud has turned into an Eminem song because I wont’ back down.
[iii] What lists were posted today, you ask? Ah, well for those of you who like wasting your lives, I’ll leave you with these:
So, The Simpsons predicted the future and some dude you’ve never met, went SO FAR over the top, that there’s no way his second wife won’t find this after he ends up divorced to this one because he clearly doesn’t know that marriage is about the other person. Not showing off. (Don’t email me about this one, the numbers don’t lie, more that 50% of marriages fail. And 100% of marriages fail when you put yourself first. Facts. And btw, the video is 27 minutes long. That’s not cute. Its self indulgent.)
[iv] Because for all he’s not, one thing he is, is a walking (and even when he’s not), talking sound bite. His almost incessant need to be liked keeps him from being unable to keep his mouth shut.
[v] Dwight Howard was almost the perfect NBA package when he entered the league. He was supposedly a deeply Christian kid, who had the muscular physique of a cartoon character and the 1000 watt smile of a caricature, the NBA has constantly tried to sell its fans on Dwight. He’s the nice guy. The funny guy. The strong guy. The family guy. The dominate guy. Only one problem: turns out, he’s not most of those things. He just “tries” to be. And if there’s one thing that shows most out on the court…its someone who is phony. So his handlers can try and hide his love of the ladies (and the kids that come with it) and the teams he plays for can choose his silliness over a passionate coach (who is just trying to win and is basically responsible for making his one NBA Finals appearance happen) and every sponsor can try and package him as confident pitchman (despite reports from every team he’s ever played for talking about his insecurities) but when you’re out on the court, you can’t hide. And everywhere he’s been, Howard eventually reveals his true self.
[vi] Quick story: In all my life as reporter, writer and regular fan, I’ve never once thought of calling into a sports-talk radio show until the summer of 2012. Howard was in Los Angeles rehabbing from his recent surgery and was meeting for a final time with new Orlando General Manger, Rob Hennigan. Details of the meeting were leaked by Howard’s people and the story came out that the Magic were asking Howard one last time, to consider staying in Orlando. The two clowns on the radio in Los Angles (who have zero connections and even less credibility) went on the air with the information and laid into Orlando’s GM (who happened to be the youngest in the league at the time) saying that he was in way over his head and that “boy oh boy was it going to be so sweet when Howard ended up with the Lakers.” I couldn’t believe how ignorant the guys on air were. I literally picked up the phone and started dialing the station. As the phone was ringing, I got a call from a soon-to-be-named Orlando Magic scout. I fumed on the phone to him about what I was hearing. All he could do was laugh. Now I understand why he found it so amusing. The Lakers traded away their All-Star center for Howard. Howard then left the Lakers as a free agent leaving the Lakers to start Chris Kaman at center this season. Have fun talking about that on the radio, guys.
[vii] Yes, the new bargaining agreement and the refusal of ownership to spend the money necessary to compete at the highest levels, OKC had to do something with Harden. It wasn’t a great trade, but they drew a line, asked Harden to take less for the chance to win (I’ll never judge someone for getting as much money as they can. Ever. But, LeBron, Wade, Bosh and later Ray Allen, have all taken less money for a chance to win. Results speak for themselves), he insisted on a max deal. He now has it in Houston. He also won’t make the NBA Finals while in Houston. The choices we make.