UPDATE: 11/21/13, 5:40 p.m. ET: From the NBA:
That's some pretty expensive lashing out, but at least Howard — set to earn just over $20.5 million this year — can afford it.
Despite frequent assertions that he no longer cares what people think, Dwight Howard has shown in the past a propensity to respond to heckling in not-so-positive ways. This doesn't necessarily make him a jerk or a clod; nobody likes it when people call them names and say mean stuff about them, and few of us react particularly well to insults. Still, Dwight's reaction to razzing during the fourth quarter of the Houston Rockets' exciting Wednesday matchup with the Dallas Mavericks wasn't exactly the best one possible.
Howard had a brilliant start to the game, making his first 11 shots from the field (he didn't miss until there was just 8:18 left in the game) and dominating on the interior to help Houston open up an 18-point lead with 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter. With Dallas charging back late in the fourth, though, Howard corralled a miss and was fouled before he could flip up a shot; after getting the ball back, he made a curious decision:
A frustrated Howard dribbled a couple of times, then gently tossed the ball into the crowd to whichever heckler had been getting on his case. It wasn't the worst thing in the world, a furious, violent or vulgar attack on a paying customer; it was just kind of dumb, because the referees instantly slapped him with a technical foul, giving the Mavs a chance to halve the potential impact of Howard's upcoming free throws by making one of their own, which Dirk did. (Credit where it's due: Howard did make both, shot 9 for 13 from the line in the game, went 4 for 6 in the final frame and has shot just under 65 percent from the stripe over the past week.)
The Mavericks went on to complete their comeback and earn a 123-120 win, and Howard's slip-up wasn't the cause of the downfall. You've got to credit the hellacious run sparked by the Mavs' continually top-drawer offense, which scored 48 points on 73.9 percent shooting over the final 15 1/2 minutes of play, and Rick Carlisle's switch to a pack-the-paint approach that kept Houston away from the rim (17 of the Rockets' final 24 shots came outside the restricted area) and cooled down the Rockets' hot shooting (just 8 for 24 from the floor in that stretch).
[Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Read More »from Dwight Howard fined $25K for flipping ball to heckler, Vince Carter calls him ‘biggest crybaby I know’ (Video)