Dwight Howard, the one with the commitment issues, is famously gregarious and fun-loving, and that's great, but he also gave one team a black eye for a year and a half, throwing elbows all the while. And he's already starting the same stuff in Los Angeles ("Howard not ready to commit").
This guy can be a positive force on both ends of the court, but he is also often a dirty player (I mean that literally about the elbows) and everyone knows about his regrettable free-agency power-trip off the court with the Magic.
It's time for Dwight Howard to realize that his jokes and his smile cannot undo a sullied reputation. Only solid play and a level head can do that. With a cast of stars around him, Howard won't have to carry the Lakers. He will, however, be under a lot of pressure.
Magic fans are relieved to have him gone. Lakers fans are divided. Yes, the Lakers needed to do something big this off-season to keep fans happy and to keep up with the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that made yet another round of big improvements in the summer. The team needed to do something, and Dwight Howard was brought to town.
There are lots reasons for hope in Lakerland, but I am one of the fans expecting the locker room stories to match the on-court stories this season. We'll be lucky if that does not happen. Howard won't be the only one in the locker room, obviously, but the pressure on him will be greater than the pressure on Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison.
Everyone already thinks those guys are up-standing people. They're "good guys" and Dwight Howard, as of today, is not a "good guy" anymore. The pressure will be high on Howard to succeed and play well while also being a humble teammate.
He's going to be tested.
Will he pass the test?
For my part, I hope that Howard is successful in Los Angeles. Hell, I hope he wins the MVP award, because I'd like to see the Lakers win a championship this year.
I just hope that Howard looks to his teammates for advice and remembers that he is not the only NBA player in recent memory to have a publicity crisis and get booed. The guy suiting up with him, the one with those NBA Finals MVP trophies lining his wall…that guy was enemy number one for years. He came back from it.
Kobe Bryant is mentally tough.
More recently LeBron James had to walk a similar path. His fall was even greater than Bryant's because James was once the star-child in a way that Kobe never was.
Dwight Howard is going to have to find it in himself to play through the criticism; dig down and find his own mental toughness. He may have to take some advice from the veterans around him. He should take that advice, I think, because this is the season that just may put a permanent stamp on his reputation.
If he decides to leave Los Angeles after a single season, will he leave as a proven professional and franchise player or as something less than that?
Eric Martin is a lifelong basketball fan living in the Los Angeles area, lucky to have lived in Illinois during Jordan's reign and in Philadelphia when Allen Iverson was in his prime.
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