Why This Version of Dwight Howard Is Exactly What LA Lakers Desperately Need

At a time when the Los Angeles Lakers needed more, Dwight Howard has given them more.

This isn't the same Howard we watched for the better half of the NBA's regular season. Not only is he healthy, he's just, well, different.

We've watched him grab more rebounds and score more points, but that's not necessarily how he's different. It's a part of it. But not all of it.

Howard's increased involvement and subsequent production can be attributed to his health. His back and shoulders limited him physically for a large chunk of the season, and now that he has his mobility and explosiveness back, he's been able to hit the glass harder, block additional shots and play above the rim more.

His increased involvement on the offensive end also has something to do with tactical adjustments. The Lakers are running the ball through the post more, so he has more opportunities to score. Which means he's taking more shots. And when he takes more shots and is afforded the opportunity to score, Los Angeles wins. A lot. Like a contender would win even.

But you know this. You've read it, seen it and understood it. You know this is what the Lakers have needed. Yet, it's not all they need.

Howard hasn't exactly been himself the entire season. He hasn't been a shell of who he was with the Orlando Magic, but emotionally, he hasn't been in the same state, because he wasn't in the same situation.

What the Lakers have needed in Howard was a leader. A vocal fixture who would hold his teammates accountable and serve as a rock for them to lean on. Or rather, an additional rock.

Kobe Bryant is always going to be someone the Lakers need and rely on. But they needed Dwight to be that someone too, to carry himself with that same bravado he did while with the Magic.

He hasn't, though. Either out of fear for displacing Bryant, sheer inconvenience or general role confusion, he simply hasn't. The L...

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