How Dwight Howard Is Transforming LA Lakers’ Season Since the All-Star Break

There are several reasons the Los Angeles Lakers are 11-4 since the NBA All-Star break and streaking toward a playoff berth that seemed unimaginable a month ago, and the rebirth of Dwight Howard during that period may be the most critical.

When seeking a catalyst for the Lakers' revival, some fans will point to Kobe Bryant's apparent journey back to his mid-2000s form or Steve Nash's embrace of his new role as a long-range assassin. But Howard's impact on both ends of the court, especially defense, may have saved the Lakers from becoming a postseason afterthought.

Howard previously admitted that he used the time off during the All-Star break to improve his health and accept the cold wisdom that Bryant has been dispensing since Howard arrived in Los Angeles.

And it certainly seems to be working. 

A glance at Howard's statistics this season would appear to prove my theory false because his numbers are lower in almost every measurable category when compared to his historical body of work.

Howard's averages of 16.4 points, 12.5 rebounds and 56 percent shooting from the field are decent enough, but what really makes Howard special is that he belongs to a small fraternity of players who possess the ability to decide the course of a game without scoring a point.

For all of the grief I have given Howard in the past over his lack of a low-post, back-to-the-basket game, I have never denied his tendency to dominate contests with sheer brute strength and unnatural athleticism.

Just the threat of Howard waiting in the lane was sometimes enough to deter an opponent from wandering into the paint, but Lakers fans have rarely seen that version of D12 this season.

There have been moments where Howard has put up glowing numbers, such as his 31-point, 16-rebound performance in a January win over the Milwaukee Bucks or his 26-rebound ...

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