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Lakers' C Dwight Howard Needs to Smile More, Not Less, Despite Horry's Wishes

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Dwight Howard sent Hollywood into a frenzy when the news broke of him coming to join forces with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the 2012-13 season has not gone well for the Lake Show as they've chased the elusive .500 mark for the better part of half a season. As a result, all team stakeholders are gripping, including one former L.A. great.

Robert Horry set Laker-land ablaze when he made some unflattering comments regarding Howard and his demeanor:

"You want a guy to be more focused," Horry told ESPN 710 L.A. "That's the kind of guy you want, someone who's focused, not fun-loving."

To set the record straight, "Big Shot Rob" is a Lakers legend, and his voice matters. He's may not be in the same upper echelon as Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Kobe Bryant, but he's not far behind, either.

The soft-spoken man from Alabama was instrumental in bringing multiple championships to L.A., and a player doesn't get seven NBA rings by accident. He can play, and knows what he's talking about. So did he say too much regarding the perennial All-Star and three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year?

Without question, yes.

First, it's important to understand the context. Horry comes from a winning pedigree and watched an assassin in Bryant during the prime of his career from a better seat than anyone when the Lakers won three consecutive titles from 2000-2002.

Horry, like the rest of the world, also saw a goofball-turned-stoic LeBron James evolve into more of an unstoppable force than he already was en route to his first NBA title. James clammed up and manned up, and it worked perfectly for him.

But that won't work for Howard. He's not one of those guys. In fact, he's this guy. If he wants to get back to being the force that Lakers fans saw for eight seasons in Central Florida with the Orlando Magic, he'll need to do a few things:

Get healthy

Howard is still laboring with the back issue that sidelined him toward the end of last season. He's also had to deal with a partially torn labrum that's caused him to miss time this season. Through all that, he's somehow managed to produce at a steady rate. His season averages through 36 games with the Lakers are 17.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. All but the blocks are slightly below his career averages.

But the caveat is that in Orlando, he wasn't surrounded with All-Stars (sorry, Jameer Nelson), nor did he have a Hall-of-Famer who was playing some of the best basketball of his career. If Howard is doing all of this while hurt, he'll be able to do much more when healthy.

In his last three games, he's stepped it up and averaged 22 points, 15.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per contest. He's clearly getting healthy, and that bodes well for he and his teammates as they fight for their playoff lives the rest of the season.

Get comfortable

It's no secret that head coach Mike D'Antoni's system is in question with this year's team. The Lakers' makeup is not conducive to run a fast-paced offense and stretch the floor from the perimeter. Howard has had to adjust to being the No. 2 or No. 3 option on offense, and he'll have to find an adequate level of comfort as the Lakers are finally getting close to having their starting lineup back to full strength.

Get sillier

Howard responded to Horry just as he should have.

"I'm not going to stop smiling," he said. "I play basketball, get paid a lot of money to play basketball, something that teachers and police officers and firemen should (get). But I'm getting paid for it, so I'm going to have fun. I don't care who has a problem with it."

True words, indeed.

Being the man who once wore a Superman cape and won over fans everywhere with his infectious personality has managed to be a businessman where it mattered most -- on the court. Bryant echoed the same sentiment when Howard first came aboard.

If anything, Howard needs to let loose a little more and go back to his comfort zone. If that means more of this, then by golly, he should do it.

If the Black Mamba, a cold-blooded basketball assassin, is good with it, then everyone else, including Horry, should be too.

Michael C. Jones covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA. He writes regularly for SB Nation and Examiner.com. He is also the Editor of Sports Out West.

For more on the Lakers, you can follow him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.

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