Mar 1, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT
Thursday night in the Lakers win Dwight Howard didn’t put up monster numbers against Nikola Pekovic (who left early injured) and the Minnesota Timberwolves — 11 points, 13 rebounds — but you could see he was moving much better, particularly on the defensive end of the court. He’s healthier, his back is bothering him less, and it shows.
He is playing more and more like the guy the Lakers (and their fans) thought they were getting.
Once again in an interview, this time with Sam Amick of USA Today, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has Howard’s back. He says Howard played through a lot of pain in Los Angeles this year.
“I think he should get more credit for the reality of what has taken place,” Kupchak said. “Here’s a guy who didn’t have to come back. Forget whatever he needs (because of) this summer as a free agent, because doctors are going to say that after a year you’re going to be fine. But he came back because after a year he wanted to play and he wanted to win. And then he’s also had the torn labrum (in his right shoulder). I just thought he was getting unfairly criticized….
“I was surprised that he went through training camp and didn’t miss a practice,” Kupchak said. “I thought that maybe he would do some things on a side basket, and then he’d get in condition and we would maybe see him in December or January. I was surprised. I’m not sure he came back too early, but I think people expected too much, too soon.”
I think it was pretty clear he came back too soon. But part of it also was moments of a lack of effort, a clear frustration that he wasn’t getting his numbers, his touches, and he didn’t bring the same fire to the game.
Now, like all the Lakers, they seem to be starting to figure out an identity and how the pieces all fit together. They are not a great team by any means yet, but they are winning games they lost earlier in the season because they are executing better, playing their roles. They are starting to do the little things that are making them win games rather than blow leads and lose them.
As for Howard, he’ll get his max money this summer (most likely with the Lakers). And if he comes back and plays like the old, Orlando Howard all this will be forgotten by fans as he becomes the face of the franchise. His chance to define his legacy is still ahead of him, he just has to be serious enough to grab it and take advantage of it.
- Jeanie Buss: ‘Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser’ 0
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Memphis Grizzlies 5
- Five top candidates for NBA Rookie of the Year 19
- NBA GMs surveyed predict LeBron will win MVP, Spurs will repeat as champions 27
- Owners vote down NBA Draft lottery reform, system to stay same for this season 46
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 preview: Houston Rockets 24
- Kobe Bryant responds to ESPN article with basically a shrug (VIDEO) 20
- Paul George refutes report he didn’t want to play with Kobe Bryant: ‘Media reaching again’ 22