5 Ways Dwight Howard Can Finally Win All NBA Fans Back
Dwight Howard has the smile and swagger of a man who realizes what he just got away with.
After seemingly giving the world a crash course in how not to handle impending free agency, the superstar still wound up playing for one of the best teams in the league and in a media market befitting of his stature—in terms of physique and celebrity alike.
Let the record be clear. As Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg catalogues, Howard deserved anything but such a happy ending:
In the meantime, Howard is a Laker, and how rich is that? He nuked his old franchise in Orlando, establishing himself as the best all-around franchise-destroying star in the NBA. He complained like Carmelo, got his coach fired like Jason Kidd, and ditched adoring fans like LeBron—and, like all the all-time greats, he brought something new to the game: world-class waffling, which hurt Orlando even more.
It goes without saying that it may be an eternity before those fans in Orlando can even think about Howard without becoming a bit nauseous.
Except for bandwagon fans and those disposed to hero worship, the rest of the league's fans have to be pretty disappointed as well. It doesn't help that Howard ditched his summer basketball camp for kids, adding insult to the grievous injury suffered by Orlando and its tortured fanbase.
The ship may have sailed with those once-loyal followers, but can Dwight save face with the rest of the league's fans?
Maybe, but he'll have his work cut out for him. Here are five ways he can right his wrongs.
Support Mike Brown Unequivocally
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Whatever you think about Stan Van Gundy's coaching ability, it's hard to justify the way Dwight Howard allegedly went about undermining his head coach's career with the Orlando Magic.
Howard denies any involvement in Van Gundy's termination to this day, but it's a bit hard to imagine why Van Gundy would have been given inaccurate information. It's even harder to imagine what incentive Van Gundy would have had to lie about the situation.
On the other hand, it isn't hard at all to imagine why Howard would lie about it.
His image and reputation—to the extent there's anything favorable left of them—were more than reason enough to misrepresent his behind-the-scenes meddling in the organization's decision making.
Should he similarly undermine Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike Brown, Howard's penchant for destabilizing locker rooms would be cemented.
It's one thing to provide feedback about a coach's performance. It's another thing to do so deceptively and with an eye towards regime change.
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Dwight Howard didn't like the way former general manager Otis Smith handled the Orlando Magic's roster.
Chances are most of Orlando's fans could sympathize. Smith's legacy really isn't as bad as you might think when looking at the roster Rob Hennigan inherited. There were some obvious mistakes, but it was a still a mixed record of failures and successes alike.
The failures may very well have been motivated by a corporate pressure to keep Howard happy, a motivation that would sacrifice long-term interests for risky short-term gambles. How else can you explain exchanging Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter and a first-round pick for Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu's bloated contract?
Gortat would look pretty good in a Magic uniform right about now but he seemed superfluous to a franchise that expected Dwight Howard to be its starting center for the foreseeable future. Perhaps Smith shouldn't have been so naive.
But whatever Smith's final grade, Howard's criticism of Orlando's front office wasn't especially classy.
At the moment, it's unthinkable that Howard would heap anything but praise upon Lakers GM R.C. Buford, but just wait until this roster actually needs an overhaul in the post-Kobe Bryant (and Steve Nash) era.
Dwight seems like an awfully nice guy right at the moment, but we all know better.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
It may be true that Dwight Howard didn't directly get Stan Van Gundy fired, but here's what we all know: Former GM Otis Smith says Howard didn't ask him directly to fire Van Gundy, but as Brett Pollakoff points out, that doesn't mean he didn't go to ownership instead.
Of course, Howard could be playing word games or outright lying about the role he played in the saga.
From a third-person perspective, yes, it looks like Dwight isn't be entirely forthright.
We can only speculate, though.
Needless to say, Howard needs to either say less or otherwise ensure he's saying the right thing from here on out. He should probably stick to telling the truth or otherwise just refusing to comment about the various dramas that seem to follow him.
I get why Dwight Howard is so happy.
But saying Los Angeles "has been home for [him]" after four months and "walking around Beverly Hills" is nothing short of obnoxious.
Meanwhile, two of Dwight's three memories of Orlando involved him dunking. That sounds about right. After his brief recollection of personal accomplishments while playing in Orlando, Howard first thoughts as a Laker were how incredibly happy he is.
That's really the last thing anyone wants to hear.
Maybe he doesn't need to act morose about things but he should handle the situation with some dignity. At best, the way Howard handled things was forgivable. It wasn't ideal and it probably wasn't OK.
Howard needs to take some account for that, and it goes without saying he shouldn't be entirely happy about how things went down. The only thing he expressed any angst about in his introductory press conference was that he'd been kept off the court while recovering from back surgery.
Oh, and then he name-dropped the 405 freeway to endear himself to the "Aw, shucks" Angelino media asking questions.
Let Kobe Wear the Pants
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Dwight Howard is now a role player.
Yes, he's a superstar role player and he'd be almost any other team's franchise player but on these Los Angeles Lakers, he'll be expected to do a few things on offense and just about everything on defense.
He's really the fourth-best scorer in the Lakers' starting lineup. The fact that he's historically scored more than Pau Gasol or Steve Nash shouldn't be confused with his scoring ability. He fights his way to easy, high-percentage shots and he got a lot of touches with the talent-deprived Orlando Magic.
That doesn't mean the Lakers will be running many plays for him, though. Howard should grasp that fact of Laker life pretty easily.
He'll also need to remember that this is Kobe's team. He'll need to remember that he has a lot to learn from Kobe, Steve Nash and even Pau Gasol.
For all the ways Howard impacts the game, he's not as skilled as this team's other stars. He's gotten by on freakish athleticism and enough talent to put those physical tools to work.
And, he still can't make a free throw.
Howard just needs to lay low for a little while, deferring to his elders and letting the public forget about him a bit. A flashier, more ego-centric persona might play well in Los Angeles but it will make the rest of the country sick.