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For at least a night, Dwight Howard looks like he made the smart move

Oct 31, 2013, 1:09 PM EDT

Dwight Howard, Bismack Biyombo AP

For at least one night, Dwight Howard could say the move was justified. He can say he made the right call and back it up.

We’ll see what the future holds, but Howard looked healthy, moved well, grabbed 26 rebounds, was a strong defensive presence and chipped in 17 points in the Rockets season-opening win. He looked like his old, dominant self.

He played in a way that will just piss Laker fans off —  and the Rockets looked formidable.

Howard seems to bask in all that a little after the game, speaking with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

“When I stood there and looked around, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got an amazing opportunity here, and I’m not going to let it go to waste,” Howard told Yahoo Sports late Wednesday in a quiet corner of the locker room. It hit me there: This is what I chose. This is what I decided to do.”

He smiled a knowing smile, nodded and repeated himself.

“I’m not going to let it go to waste,” Howard said.

He’s got an opportunity, that much is certain. This should be a top four roster in the West with the flexibility to make moves to move it higher. (The Omer Asik/Howard pairing was not that strong last night, if it continues to be that way Asik will get moved.) James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, there is balanced talent on this roster.

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The question is really “what happens when times get tough?” Howard has not dealt well with basketball adversity the past few years at all, it’s never been his strong suit. But it will come again — has he matured enough to deal with it and still be a force? Has he grown from all this?

Tine will tell. But for a night Howard gets to bask in the glow of having looked like he made the right call.

  1. greej1938l - Oct 31, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    C’mon he played the Bobcats…

    • casualcommenter - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:27 PM

      Not sure why you’re being downvoted.

      I’m a Rockets fan, and even I’m willing to acknowledge that “vindication” doesn’t come from beating the Bobcats.

      Vindication will come if the team makes a deep playoff run this year. It’s like LeBron with the Heat – the ONLY way Howard can try to salvage a bad PR situation he himself helped create is by winning. That’s it.

      • Anoesis - Oct 31, 2013 at 10:13 PM

        Howard didn’t “help” create his situation, he pretty much did it all by himself. Those were certainly situations where he didn’t “let it go to waste.” And like James and Cleveland, no one in Orlando or L.A. will ever consider Howard “salvaged.”

  2. dezglobal - Oct 31, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    He dsnt do well w adversity.. Look at his track record.. When they get knocked out of the playoffs he’s gonna be crying like a baby again. This guy will never win a ring.

    Just my opinion, of course.

  3. burm61 - Oct 31, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    Everyone knew the Rockets were the smartest decision from the start. The issue will be how will he ruin a good situation

    • JHathwell - Oct 31, 2013 at 4:09 PM

      I think you could argue that from a pure basketball standpoint Golden State was as good, if not better a situation than Houston.

  4. thedano - Oct 31, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    He had big rebounding games a year ago too. The issue isn’t his rebounding. The problem is he wants to be the alpha dog, and feed first on offense. Problem with that……he’s not a very good offensive player. If he focused on defensive, rebounding first, he’d be a stud. Houston is a bad fit for what he’s said he wants….because they are so up tempo. What he liked about Houston is, fans don’t get on you when you don’t win a title. LA, fans and media eat you alive if you aren’t winning. Howard can play in Houston and not fear that. That’s why he’s in Houston.

    Houston will be a fun regular season team, like the Clippers. See Clippers playoff results for similar outcome.

  5. paleihe - Oct 31, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    I swear, people are stupid with how short their memories are.

    Signing Dwight was a great move. Getting the best center in the league is never a bad move, never. Dude was playing through injuries, and was playing in a system that wasn’t suited for him at all. And he still got 18 & 12.

    This year, if he stays healthy, people are gonna remember just how good he actually is.

    • ryanrockzzz - Oct 31, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      Agree. People have to understand D’Antoni never worked with Howard’s skill set last year, and dealing with Kobe is never easy, when he’s not ready to give up his team.

      I would honestly say Howard will have an elite season this year provided he stays healthy. He has a better supporting cast for his skill set (Parsons spreading the floor some, a legit go to guy in Harden, Beverley providing energy and a defensive presence outside of the paint) and a coach who will let him play his game.

      The bigger question that never gets asked in NBA circles is why exactly D’Antoni keeps getting jobs?

      • asimonetti88 - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:20 PM

        “People have to understand D’Antoni never worked with Howard’s skill set last year”

        D’Antoni abandoned his preferred offense in favor of giving Howard the low post touches he demanded.

        D’Antoni wanted to run pick and rolls with Howard and Nash, which would work excellent with Howard’s skill set, but Howard bristled at the idea.

        You can say a lot of things about D’Antoni, and as a Lakers fan, there is plenty I’d like to say, but not working with Howard’s skill set is not one of them.

      • casualcommenter - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:25 PM

        To be fair, D’Antoni eventually tried to work with Howard’s preference to operate in the low-post, but the Lakers roster lacked the shooting necessary to give him space. Teams didn’t pretend to guard Pau Gasol whenever he was standing 18 feet from the basket, pretending to be a stretch-4.

        And the fact that chemistry never developed between Kobe (who was the primary ball handler for most of the year due to Nash’s injuries) and Howard didn’t help when it came to helping Howard produce on the offensive end.

      • JHathwell - Oct 31, 2013 at 4:15 PM

        Anyone who continues to ignore what a destructive, corrosive force Howard was on the Lakers last year is either ignoring fact or simply has a bias. The guy killed the team dead with his demands and selfishness. Now, maybe he’s humbled himself enough to take a backseat to harden and maybe he hasn’t. We’ll see.

        Either way, there’s no denying what happened.

        Oh, and Mike D’ Antoni is a system coach who is hired by teams that know full well he can succeed with the right guys to play his system. Instead of blaming him, blame the ownership and front office for failing to get him such players.

    • spursareold - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:00 PM

      There’s a difference between putting up numbers and having the stones to advance in the playoffs under pressure. Dwight has pebbles.

      • casualcommenter - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:22 PM

        You’re right. Dwight Howard fans should just shut up until he proves he has the stones to lead a team deep into the playoffs.

        Dwight Howard will never lead a team to the Finals!

        Oh wait…he already has, hasn’t he? Oops.

      • spursareold - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:50 PM

        He lost, had a snit, and forced his way out of Orlando. THAT’S how he deals with pressure.

      • paleihe - Oct 31, 2013 at 4:04 PM

        You can have an incredibly successful career and never win a championship. It doesn’t mean you suck. It doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough. It simply means your teams were never good enough to win it all.

        Think of people like Dom Wilkins, Malone, Stockton, Reggie Miller…or do they all have pebbles also?

      • spursareold - Oct 31, 2013 at 6:24 PM

        @paleihe Did any of them run and hide when they lost a FInals, forcing their way off their team?

        Nope. They were men.

      • rohlo - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:47 AM

        LMAO @ all these posters sayign he needs to lead a team deep i nthe playoffs!! HELLO he led a not very talented team in orlando to the finals vs the lakers with no help !!! it doesnt get much deeper than that!! why do people just wanna hate all the time? yes he acted like a baby,but dont say he has never led a team deep in the playoffs because he actually has with no help..

      • rohlo - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:51 AM

        spursareold you are lame! first you say he wont lead a team deep in playoffs when he actually has and then you comeback with he had a sniff and then forced his way out. you act like he is the first nba player to force hsi way out from a team. barkley forced his way out of philly to phx,garnett from minnesota to boston,carmelo from denver to NYK,shaq from orlando to LAL. your just a bitter laker fan thta a player actually left your team for a change instead of it being a player coming in from another team! hate on hater!

  6. antistratfordian - Oct 31, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    “For at least one night, Dwight Howard could say the move was justified.”

    One night? No one outside of Southern California is ever going to question him for leaving Kobe and D’Antoni. That move is eternally justified regardless of what happens in the future.

    • asimonetti88 - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:23 PM

      So if the Lakers win a championship in the next couple years and the Rockets don’t, you still feel it is eternally justified? Talk about confirmation bias.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:34 PM

        Of course. He didn’t want to be there – and of course since LA still has Kobe most people find that understandable. No one is going to question him about that.

        It’s not like he was choosing between two ideal fits and he just made a misguided choice. The Lakers were nothing close to ideal for him. He was never going to be happy in L.A. even if they did win – just like Kobe with Shaq.

      • asimonetti88 - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:37 PM

        Part of that is the same confirmation bias you have. He came here and told himself he could never be happy here, so obviously he wasn’t.

      • casualcommenter - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:38 PM

        …That’s not how you evaluate a person’s decision-making.

        You evaluate decision-making based on the information available to the person at the time they made the decision.

        For example, if I decide to get really, really drunk before driving home and accidentally kill a pedestrian who happens to be a wanted serial killer, I’m still guilty of making a bad decision. When I decided to drive home, I had no way of knowing that I’d hit an evil person on the way home instead of an innocent bystander, so the fact that I was “lucky” enough to only hurt a bad person doesn’t change the fact that my decision was one that would usually lead to a bad outcome.

        The information Dwight had about the Lakers roster (its key players old and declining, with limited trade or draft assets to improve it and limited realistic free agency options in the next 3 years) and the Rockets roster (its key players young and improving) clearly pointed to his chances being better with the Rockets. Nobody outside of LA believed otherwise. Even if the Lakers by some miracle win a championship in the next 3 years with a breaking down Steve Nash and post-Achilles Kobe Bryant, Howard’s decision (based on the information he had at the time) was still a smart one.

      • casualcommenter - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:42 PM

        “He came here and told himself he could never be happy here, so obviously he wasn’t.”

        Correction – He was traded to the Lakers, was stuck on a roster full of aging/declining players who were mostly bad on defense and couldn’t spread the floor on offense, was told by Kobe that the Lakers would always be “Kobe’s team” while Kobe remained on the roster, so obviously he wasn’t happy and left.

      • asimonetti88 - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:43 PM

        I don’t agree with that. I don’t think the season helped, but it was pretty clear from Day 1 he didn’t want to let himself be happy here. His body language and play said it pretty loudly.

      • paleihe - Oct 31, 2013 at 4:07 PM

        It’s tough to judge the body language of someone that had back surgery.

      • asimonetti88 - Oct 31, 2013 at 4:11 PM

        “It’s tough to judge the body language of someone that had back surgery.”

        lol! Maybe…

      • Anoesis - Oct 31, 2013 at 10:27 PM

        The same tired, debunked narrative from anti.

        Howard wanted to go to New York from Orlando. Didn’t happen. His solution? Accept a trade to the Lakers in order to escape the Magic, claim at your introductory press conference in L.A. that you were thrilled to be there, thrilled to be the next legendary Laker big man, and generally lie through your teeth until the end of the season so you could leave.

        “He played in a way that will just piss Laker fans off-”

        Nope, we were pissed off when we found out Howard had no intention of making any concessions whatsoever to play in a way that maximized his skills while being a team player. He and any number of Laker players could have pick-and-rolled teams to death, but Howard wanted to be something he really isn’t: A post player with more than one move.

        Many Lakers fans figured this out well before the end of last season and (rightly) figured Howard was long gone. Why do you think so many of us laughed at and ridiculed Lakers management’s comical attempts to keep Howard? Anybody remember that asinine building wrap?

        Howard and Houston could dethrone the reigning champs (making everyone outside of Miami happy) and go on their own run of titles and there are two chances that any fan of Orlando or L.A. will ever forgive his conniving, scheming, underhanded way of dealing with those two teams: In the immortal words of Chick Hearn, slim and none.

    • kb2408 - Oct 31, 2013 at 5:16 PM

      “Regardless to what happens in the future”? That’s asinine. Dwight gave up millions of dollars in salary and potential endorsements that he will never make up AND the chance to be the face of the NBA’s marquee franchise, to go to a franchise no one outside of Texas cares about. The Rockets aren’t even the favorite team in their own state. That title belongs to the Spurs. The Rockets are the equivalent of the Clippers in L.A. The move is justified ONLY if he wins a title. Even with the great Dr. Buss gone, I still like the LAKERS chances at winning titles in the future more than I do the Rockets, who’s only championships in the their entire existence came because MJ decided to do a poor Bo Jackson impression in the minor leagues. The LAKERS have a proven record of sustained excellence that no other pro franchise can match. Before you mention the Yankees or Celtics notice I said sustained.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 31, 2013 at 5:22 PM

        “The Rockets are the equivalent of the Clippers in L.A.”

        The Rockets have rings, home slice. And like the Lakers, the Rockets also have a legacy of great big men. The Clippers??? Cmon now.

        You’re a Lakers fan so I understand why you would be sensitive about being kicked to the curb. But Dwight wasn’t happy in L.A. and he was never going to be happy with Kobe – just like Kobe was never going to be happy with Shaq. You have to accept that.

      • rohlo - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:59 AM

        beg to differ dude! il live in so cal and have been a rockets fan for decades! and actually your comment about the spurs is wrong considering nobody outside of san antonio in texas cares about the spurs especially with the way their fans whine about everything and its never the spurs fault when thye lose. fact is the rockets in texas went to the first 4 titles in texas history and won the first two in texas and have been fairly popular thruout the state! the rockets and mavs have huge media markets where san antonio is fairly small! the spurs might have 4 titles but they surely arent the most popular team in texas when the metro areas in houston and dallas are like 3-4 times larger than san anonio’s small tv market and metro area amongst the 3 big cities in texas.spurs bandwagoners outside of san antonio in texas are the same bandwagoners who rooted for the rockets in the 90’s or the same bandwagon texas rangers fans now who rooted for the astros in the world series in early to mid 2000’s.

      • rohlo - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:02 AM

        moron jordan played for the bulls during the rockets 2nd title run ,he wore #45 and his bulls were beat by the shaq and penny orlando magic which the rockets swept in the finals. the mj not playing excuse is lame! if that the case every title won since jordan retired that could be said.especially the titles won by the lakers right after jordan and the bulls were dismantled by the owner leading the way for phil jackson to make his way to LA after del harris failed!

  7. thedano - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Those who commented that Dwight wasn’t in a system that suited him last year……..the Rockets aren’t in a system that suits him either. The Rockets are more run n gun than the Lakers were last year. Mike D had to redo what he wanted to do (PnR with Dwight, who refused) to give him back to the basket touches. DH is a bad back to the basket touch player. Yes he made one Finals in a horribly weak East. But let’s not argue that this player is a winner. He’s not, yet. Could he, maybe. But he doesn’t know himself. He wants to be the big dog. Best case scenario for Houston is DH focuses on D, rebounding, and complimentary offense. Let the offense run through Harden. But that will become an issue, like it did in LAL.

  8. losanginsight - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    Stephen Hawking could pull down 10+ boards against the cats. Charlotte would be a 6 seed if the NCAA tournament started today.

  9. kb2408 - Oct 31, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    Dwight wasn’t signed to do damage against a hapless Bobcats squad. If he is indeed a true franchise center, he is “supposed” to lead Houston to a title. And playing with another top 10 player removes the “not having enough help” excuse. Go down the list of big men who were considered franchise centers and the majority of them won at least one title. Of course there are exceptions (Ewing being the most notable) but for the most part, true franchise centers win titles.

    • antistratfordian - Oct 31, 2013 at 5:37 PM

      Yeah, well what was Kareem winning without Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson? Cap wasn’t winning anything with the 2005-2012 Orlando Magic either, so…

      Give D12 some Magic Johnson or some Big O and he’d have a few rings. If Harden turns out to be hall of fame caliber, then Howard will probably win in Houston. If Harden doesn’t turn out to be that, then Howard may not win there, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a “franchise” center.

      (What about last year’s Lakers? Kobe is Kobe, D’Antoni is D’Antoni, and Dwight wasn’t even 100% – so that was never going to work.)

      • kb2408 - Oct 31, 2013 at 6:38 PM

        The only thing Dwight and KAJ have in common is they both play, or played, center in the NBA. Dwight is considered the best center in the world and Harden is now considered the best 2 guard (though I disagree), no other team in the league can say they have two top 5 players on their roster. If the Rockets don’t win a title while Dwight is there it will be an epic fail.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 31, 2013 at 6:44 PM

        They also have something else in common – they can’t win anything on their own.

        No one really can, and before you claim Hakeem, remember that he got major help from MJ.

        “If the Rockets don’t win a title while Dwight is there it will be an epic fail.”

        Can get any worse than the 2012-13 Lakers though.

        Dwight’s happy, he’s on a good team where the personalities fit, they’ll be competitive as long as they’re healthy. I don’t think anyone is going to blame any superstar for preferring not to play with Kobe and D’Antoni even at the expense of whatever material benefits L.A. has to offer.

    • borderline1988 - Oct 31, 2013 at 7:07 PM

      I don’t know why people can’t understand that basketball is a team game. There literally are maybe 5 players in NBA history who can single-handedly turn their franchise into championship contenders, regardless of who’s around them. That list includes Magic, Jordan and Lebron. To actually win a championship, you still need star players around you, regardless of who you are.

      So blanket statements like “Franchise centers win championships” are just plain stupid. If any of Russell, Magic, Jabbar, MJ, Lebron, etc played his entire career on the Bobcats, he wouldn’t have won a single championship.

      Is Chris Paul a franchise player? Of course he is. He may go down as one of the top 10 PGs of all time. But I have an inkling that the Clippers will never quite be good enough to win a championship. I just don’t trust Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan to bring them to that next level.

      Howard on the Lakers or Magic wouldn’t have won anything. But on the Rockets, they’re probably one piece away from seriously contending.

  10. galaragabigcat - Oct 31, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    As soon as something goes wrong in Houston, we will see how happy he is. I don’t think Howard will be happy anywhere. He wants teams and ownership to give into his demands. In Orlando he wanted Van Gundy fired and he still wasn’t happy. In LA he wanted Phil Jackson coaching and Kobe to retire, he didn’t get his way so he bolted. The guy needs to grow up a little.

  11. Anoesis - Oct 31, 2013 at 10:45 PM

    Howard beat up on Al Jefferson, who missed most of the preseason with a sprained ankle. The only other center the Bobcats have is Brendan Haywood, out for at least the next three months from foot surgery. Not much of a test for Howard, yet the Bobcats hung with the Rockets for three and a half quarters.

    The starting point guard, Beverley, had four shots, one rebound, and one assist. He played all of 10 minutes. Against the Bobcats. Lin got 31 minutes off the bench and had two assists. A team considered top-four in the Western Conference should have crushed Charlotte.

  12. MyTeamsAllStink - Nov 1, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    The Lakers need a roster overhaul and keeping Howard wasn’t going to do them any favors.They aren’t getting Lebron or Melo and by trying to resign Kobe they are just stalking the process even more.Kobe isn’t taking the league minimum which would be the only reason to keep him.They can’t trade him now they’ll have to keep his Arod like contract until the offseason.Its time the Lakers do what the Celtics did and rebuild

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