Dwight Howard’s arrival in Houston signals the arrival of one of the most dominant players in basketball, along with one of the most polarizing personalities in sports. Here at Red94, we are embracing the drama of Superman’s first season as a Rocket with a weekly column: “DwightLife.” This is the second installment.
The question about Dwight Howard going into his first season as a Houston Rocket was, what’s going on in his heart?
After three games, the question is, what song is going through his head?
Following a shaky 4-10 performance from the line against Dallas on Friday night, Dwight said “Tonight my song was too fast in my head, so I’ve got to sing a slower song.” He stayed mum on what that song was, but clearly he changed it up against the Jazz (please leave your music puns in the comments). In Utah he knocked down 7 of 10, including two with 1:55 left to go in the fourth to ice Houston’s lead.
Despite a first week that included a career-high-tying 26 rebounds on opening night and more thunderous alley-oop dunks from its center than Houston saw all last season, free throw shooting continues to dominate the perception of Howard. And it should. It’s impossible to understand the repercussions of Howard’s free throw performance without watching him play. Put simply, when Howard gets the ball within five feet of the basket, the other team reacts like a mother to a child who is reaching for a rattlesnake.
One particular play against Utah illustrates this. As Howard spun toward the hoop from the post, Rudy Gobert locked arms with Dwight in a move that commentator Matt Bullard described as a “do-si-do.” While another defender came over to attempt a block, Gobert’s goal was not to block the shot, but to physically restrain Howard from being able to take one. Such is Superman’s ability to score at the rim.
Until Howard’s free throw shooting improves dramatically (or until the league starts calling such plays flagrant fouls, which it should), we will be doomed to watching one of the world’s most elite athletes stand flat-footed and toss the ball at the basket instead of soaring through the air to slam it through.
Dwight Howard brings so much to the court that I wouldn’t say his free throw shooting could cost the team a championship. Every player has flaws, and Howard is clearly a net positive on the floor. But it will cost the fans countless opportunities to see a great player display his gifts.
If having a secret song is what it will take for Howard to be free to unleash his powers on offense, then let him have his secrets.