Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor
If Dwight Howard doesn’t show up for the playoffs, he only further proves he doesn’t have what it takes to win a title. As harsh as that seems for a guy who has been a part of deep postseason runs, it's the popular notion.
It does make you feel for the superstar center though. He is what he is, even if people don't like it.
We're talking about a guy who went from the league’s most entertaining, adored players early in his career to the game’s biggest—yes, literally—villain.
His overall game hasn't changed drastically since his early days, and that may be a knock or a compliment. But the numbers remain consistent, if at least in this later part of the season.
The problem has been in the postseason. He has always done statistically well in the playoffs, averaging 19.9 points and 14.4 rebounds through five separate runs.
But people want wins, and Howard has never delivered that.
Howard was drafted by the Magic in 2004 after the team's 21-win season. After failing to make the postseason in his first two seasons, D12 led his team to the 2007 playoffs where they were swept by the Detroit Pistons in the first round. Orlando advanced to the second round in 2008 before again falling to the Pistons.
In Howard's fifth season, the Magic advanced to the Finals where they lost in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers. From there, it was a regression to an Eastern Conference Finals loss to back-to-back first-round losses.
It’s probably not fair to put those postseason shortcomings on Howard. After all, as a center there’s only so much you can control and making it that far is an accomplishment.
But that isn’t enough in Los Angeles with all that talent this season.
Howard has a reputation of lacking competitiveness, and the only way to change his personal narrative is going to be through winning in the postseason.
He could average 16 points and 14 rebounds throughout the playoffs, but if the Lakers don’t succeed, no one will care.