Ok. Down 1 versus the Spurs. No surprises there… howver this time – right here, right now – is a perfect place for Dwight Howard to step up and be the player that he once was, that we all thought he could be.
That's not to say he hasn't been
the guy that we Lakerfans thought we were getting pretty good, but it's absolutely fair to think that he isn't quite the same player that he *can* be.
Whilst it's true that physically Dwight has struggled this season – he was quite obviously not even 80% when he returned at the beginning of the season – I do think that a very large part of the problem was above the shoulders.
Dwight has copped one hell of a beating in the last 18 months. This for a guy who loves to be loved has had an impact. Additionally, I think playing with a hard taskmaster (Kobe, not Mike) has taken a toll as well. I believe that a large part of the struggles Dwight's had during the season are mental/emotional. And I think he can recover from it.
Now's the time for Dwight to really put his stamp on the Lakers franchise that could well be his playground for a while to come. No Kobe, playing against the Spurs… and up against Father Time Duncan – Dwight should be one of the most dominant players on the floor whenever he's out there. Now, as far as a D12-reclamation-project, LA doesn't even need to win the series. But they have to compete, and Dwight has to be the primary reason.
This happens, and the future post-Kobe starts to look better. Hell, I know that there's a chance that Howard doesn't re-sign with LA – it's absolutely not a sure bet – but it's likely. More money, a fanbase starting to come around… and I'm not sure what the repercussions would be for his persona should he leave the league's premier glamor franchise because "there's too much pressure to win".
It'd be a helluva different place 'round LA with Dwight as the key guy. I'm not sure you can get two more diametrically opposed characters than KB#24 & D12… but it is what it is. Just happy to be a fan of a franchise who are enthusiastic about competing for a title each and every season.