Dwight Howard: “I Want to Be a Closer”

When people consider why Dwight Howard doesn't close games for the Orlando Magic, the reasoning and conclusion most reach is the same: "He can't shoot free throws, how can you guy to a guy like that in the fourth quarter?"

The answer? You can't—not if the objective is winning the game.

Surely Howard must realize his deficiencies at the line make him a liability late in games, and that such is the reason he didn't touch the ball for the final 14 possessions in the Orlando Magic's victory over teh Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.

"I want to become a closer…The only way you get there is by getting the ball…That's how Kobe and the rest of the great fourth quarter players got that way…When Kobe first got in the league, it took him a while to become the killer he is in the fourth quarter now…" Dwight Howard said following the Bucks game.

That may be true, Dwight, but there were reasons beyond just being a great player that enabled Kobe to be the closer he is, and free throw shooting isn't the only reason.

Dwight Howard must hit his free throws, yes, but he also must cut down on his turnovers and learn to hit the right man when passing out of double teams.

In the final six minutes of the win over the Bucks, the Magic closed the game with a 16-0 run, and Jason Richardson was on fire, as he scored 31 points while hitting 9 of 11 threes, several of which were in the fourth quarter as the Magic erased an 11 point defecit to improve to 17-11.

Going to Dwight Howard could eventually prove rewarding, and I see his point about wanting to be a fourth quarter closer, but wanting to be one doesn't necessarily make it the right decision.

Shaq was not a closer; Tim Duncan was not a closer; and last I checked, they had four rings a piece to Howard's zero. Both are first ballot Hall of Famers. You're seeing my point: You can be one of the greatest ever and not be a closer. Also worth noting is the fact that Dwight Howard is a 6'11" center. Most of the great closers are wing players that can be isolated effectively as they run the clock down to 4 to 6 seconds and ensure their team gets the last shot.

Having a center, even one that does hit free throws, as a closer just poses all kinds of logistical problems. I'm not saying Howard should go 14 possessions without touching the ball as he did in the win over the Bucks, but he doesn't need to be a staple offensively when each possession is crucial and two missed free throws essentially equates to an unnoticed turnover.

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Updated Tuesday, Feb 14, 2012