5 Ways Dwight Howard Can Immediately Win over L.A. Lakers Fans
The Los Angeles Lakers made an exciting move in August by acquiring Dwight Howard. While the acquisition made their championship hopes greater, it hasn't brought any certainty to Howard's relationship with the Lakers organization.
Lakers fans are right to hope that the best center in the league recovers quickly and soundly and then plays at a "Superman" level. Besides, the Lakers gave up the next best center to get him.
Howard, a three-time defensive player of the year, will be relied upon to help shore up what was an underwhelming defensive effort by the Lakers last season.
They'll also be interested in seeing how much he'll pound the ball into the basket.
Lakers fans are hoping for more than that. They want to see security at the center position. They want to see if Howard is willing to commit to the team.
Some Lakers fans surely have wayward feelings about Howard, but he can do a few things to win them over.
Follow along to see what he can do to win over Lakers fans' hearts and minds.
Sign an Extension
The easiest way for Dwight Howard to endear himself to Lakers fans is to sign an extension with the team. If Howard signs a three-year extension to stay with the Lakers, then he will have shown that he's dedicated to helping ensure the title hopes of the franchise for the next few years.
Currently, there is no indication regarding when Howard might sign an extension if he's planning to sign one. Mitch Kupchak told Sports Illustrated in early September that he hasn't had contract talks with Howard.
Howard could end any speculation about whether he'll commit to stay with the team after this season by making a point of signing an extension with the Lakers as soon as possible.
He may wait until after he has recovered to enter talks with the Lakers about signing an extension. Once he recovers, the ninth-year pro should make a point of arranging talks with Kupchak about an extension.
Additionally, Howard should try to make this work for both sides. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers would have $200 million in salary and luxury tax obligations in 2013-14 if they keep the roster the same and re-sign Howard.
While the Lakers will probably make some changes, Howard still needs to try for a salary figure the Lakers can swallow. The Lakers would need to have room to fit decent players around Howard, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.
If Howard makes a point of signing an extension early on, he will have earned the trust and support of Lakers fans.
The second item that would easily make Lakers fans happy with Dwight Howard is a good recovery to full health. If Howard makes a full recovery at a good pace, then he will have pleased Lakers fans that much more.
Howard is recovering well to this point. On Sunday, he told ESPN (via Los Angeles Times) that his "rehab is going great. ... I'm getting stronger and better every day."
He's working out with the Lakers training staff, doing core stabilization, upper and lower body strengthening, light running.
If he can stay on track with his recovery, resting well and keeping up with his exercises, Howard could ensure that he'll be back for the regular-season opener. This would be a wonderful start that shows the superstar center cares to work hard for the Lakers.
Lakers fans would be very happy to see him start the season on time.
Post a 20-20 Game Early in the Season
Hardly anything would excite Lakers fans more than if Howard kicks off what Lakers fans hope to be only his first year with the team by having a monster 20-point, 20-rebound game.
Howard has mastered this feat like no one in recent memory. He had 20-20 games in nine of his 54 games last season. In his career, he has registered 37 such games.
The hulking man in the middle has a great ability to take control of the game on the inside. As long as he cleans up the glass with his normal effectiveness and gives himself plenty of opportunities inside, Howard could have such a game in one of the first few games of the season.
Upon seeing Howard produce such a game, Lakers fans would have a great deal of faith in him. Such a productive night would inspire fans to believe that he can have big nights frequently.
Consistently Play to His Ability
Once he's healthy and active, the only thing that Howard could do that would please Lakers fans nearly as much as signing an extension would simply be to play like his superstar self.
Lakers fans understand that Howard is unrivaled among active centers. They recognize that he's been both All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team the last four years.
Also, the fans of the purple and gold know he's the preeminent rebounder in the league, having led the league in the category in six of the last seven seasons.
Lakers fans want to see the best from Howard. He needs to show them his dominance on the glass and on defense, as well as his deft shooting touch on the inside and terrific scoring capacity.
If Howard plays at his "Superman" level every game, Lakers fans will have an easy time falling in love with him.
Be a Team Player
That Howard endears himself to his teammates is important in gaining trust from the fans. Lakers fans want to see that he's part of the team, not that the team is supposed to function for his good alone.
Lakers fans don't want to see any of the antics that he displayed in his last year with the Orlando Magic. Obstructive actions that could cause Mike Brown to be fired, whether it happens the way Stan Van Gundy went out in Orlando or not, would be unwelcome.
Public comments such as the one he made in March daring the Magic to keep him past the deadline (according to ESPN) would be unacceptable.
Howard needs to show a willingness to fall in line behind Kobe Bryant and other leaders of the Lakers. He needs to be willing to take direction from Kobe and from Brown.
That Howard avoids acting like he's more important than Brown is essential.
This L.A. franchise is a freewheeling one with many lines of communication that sometimes conflict. Howard needs to keep from becoming a disruptive loudspeaker. Rather, he needs to act as a collegial partner to the others on the roster.
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