The theme for the Los Angeles Lakers this season can be summarized in one word: redemption. LA has had to redeem itself from various crippling events that occurred over the past two seasons; back-to-back early playoff exits, offseason drama, coaching problems and, most importantly, a lack of team chemistry.
Since the second half of the season began, the Lakers have truly begun to redeem themselves from all the dysfunction that had been taking place before the All-Star break. Now, when you think of LA's sudden momentum boost, you must ask yourself—who gets the credit?
It's easy to default to Kobe Bryant, the team's perennial iron man, who took the initiative to embrace his role as the team's facilitator and only make the big-game plays when absolutely necessary. You might even think of Earl Clark, the young upstart who seized the opportunity to shine in the absence of an injured Pau Gasol.
However, the guy who's made the most contributions to the Lakers' success but has not had enough recognition has got to be the big man himself, Dwight Howard.
At the start of the 2012-13 campaign, Howard immediately had a chip on his shoulder that was big enough to give the 6'11" powerhouse a run for his money. When Howard first came to the Lakers, all eyes immediately fell on him. Needless to say, these same eyes began to roll once he actually began to play in a Lakers uniform.
Defensively, Dwight's performance was dismal, to say the least. He began to show weakness in the key, and he was not aggressive in obtaining the turnover.
The lack of aggression translated on the offensive side, as well. Howard failed to drive to the boards and demonstrate his power and strength at moving past defenders, and his free-throw shooting was so bad, the term "hack-a-Dwight" immediately became a term worthy of a trending topic on Twitter.
However, that was then, this is now. The All-Star break was just what D12 needed to get his head on straight. Despite facing a slight setback due to injury, Howard did not let that hinder his desire to be the big man LA needed in order to succeed.
Howard's presence on defense began to make itself known, ending games with double-double statistics, with most of them coming from the defensive end. This is proven with his performance in games against the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings, in which he either rebounded or blocked in double figures. Regardless of the game's outcome, Howard quickly began to return to top form.
As far as his well-being was concerned, Dwight finally began to show signs of consistency. After getting the tough love treatment from Bryant, Howard progressed toward getting healthy and staying there.
Since the incident with the man known as "Vino" occurred, in which everyone assumed a replay of the Kobe-Shaq feud of the mid-2000s was imminent, Howard has regained his power, agility and his all-around athleticism.
Howard has new life injected in him; the hottest commodity of this past offseason is finally living up to the hype, and it's because of this that he deserves the most recognition for putting the Lake Show back on the map.
We don't know what will happen once the season is over; whether or not the "Dwightmare" will return is still up in the air. But until then, let's just all enjoy the stellar skills of the man this humble columnist is referring to as, "The HighDwight Reel."