Breaking Down How Dwight Howard’s Midseason Surge Is Sparking LA Lakers Rebirth

Kobe Bryant kept the Los Angeles Lakers within striking distance and now, finally, it is Dwight Howard who has pushed them over the top.

Through the first 54 games of the season and heading into the All-Star break, the Lakers found themselves four games under .500 and out of the playoff picture. Howard was having a campaign to regret; one that might ultimately drive him to spurn Los Angeles in free agency.

At that time, plagued by back and shoulder issues, Howard was averaging 16.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.3 blocks per game. Respectable numbers, yes, but he was attempting just 10.2 shots per night, and the Lakers were losing. A lot.

Still selected as an All-Star starter, so many were disappointed with Howard's performance. Tired of excuses and his ambiguous answers to questions of his future, the going in Los Angeles—the stands, the locker room, etc.—got tense.

Even at their worst, the Lakers and their fans weren't accustomed to losing, nor were they used to seeing a steep investment go up in proverbial flames.

Not to say that Howard was playing terribly, because he wasn't. But just as the Lakers were expecting a team of superstars to win in excess, they were expecting more from Howard.

It was no coincidence that Los Angeles' struggles coincided with Howard's internal and external fits of inconsistency either.

The Lakers went into the break ranked 23rd in total points allowed and 17th in opponents' field-goal percentage (45.2). There was even a point where Los Angeles was allowing fewer points per 100 possessions without Howard on the floor.

To answer any and all questions, yes, it was shaping up to be that kind of season. The kind where the Lakers miss the playoffs for just the third time in the last two decades; the kind that fueled Howard's inevitable departure.

Fast forward past the All-Star game (which, let's be honest, Dwigh...

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