Dwight Howard Leaves Lakers Looking Small, but He’s Still Got Growing to Do

LOS ANGELES—As sad as this season has been for Los Angeles Lakers fans, here is the latest shame:

The silver lining in the great free agent’s epic departure was he would forevermore serve the role of villain for a franchise that sure knows how to make the most of its rivalries.

But when Dwight Howard makes his return against the Lakers at Staples Center on Wednesday night, he has every reason to smile.

Howard arrives on a seven-game winning streak, the longest going in the NBA today; the Lakers are riding a seven-game home losing streak for the first time in franchise history. The 36-17 Houston Rockets are carrying nearly the inverse record of the 18-35 Lakers.

As if the Lakers’ desperate “STAY D12” free-agent campaign wasn’t pathetic enough—has anyone ever not looked desperate when begging someone else to “stay” in a relationship?—the old, broken-down Lakers have now reached a new level of pathetic.

Perhaps the ill will toward Howard runs deep enough that Lakers fans might—might—actually want the Lakers to win Wednesday night. So determined are so many fans to avoid dealing with the current reality that the basic plan is to think drafting some college freshman over some college sophomore will give Kobe Bryant a chance at a championship next season.

The post-Lakers Howard didn’t generate enough votes to be a Western Conference All-Star starter, but he was good enough to be chosen by the coaches for the team.

And there is a clear sense that Howard actually hasn’t played his best basketball of the season yet considering he didn’t score much early in deference to James Harden and Howard’s 1.8 blocks per game this season would stand as his worst defensive output in eight years.

No, Howard has not been totally dominant, and maybe at 28 and after back surger...

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