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 12th installment.
What a difference a year makes.
Exactly one year ago, Dwight returned from injury to help Lakers end a 6-game losing streak by beating the Cavs. That was the 16-21 Lakers over the 9-30 Cavs, and it was kind of a big deal at the time. The Lakers were in full-on panic. Steve Nash called the win “mandatory.” It was the team’s longest losing streak since 2007. The Los Angeles Lakers, and Dwight Howard, were well on their way to being reduced to two words:
Which brings us up to last week, Dwight Howard pretended to fall asleep when asked about the Los Angeles Lakers. The matchup lost so much shine that it got dropped from national TV. How did the hype between L.A. and Dwight lose heat so quickly?
Part of it is the absence of Kobe, obviously. But the bigger reason is the boredom of predictability. The Rockets are 25-14, or about as good as you would expect them to be when you factor in their roster and their injuries. The Lakers are about as bad as you would expect them to be when you factor in their roster and their injuries. The Rockets were expected to win, and they did. Dwight won, and no one cared.
Here in the doldrums of the NBA season, it’s clear that Howard has traded the hell of playing in Los Angeles for a different kind of purgatory. He’s riding the Black Pearl of the NBA: a place where all the regular season wins in the world cannot slake his lust for a championship. He’s cursed to be derided for every turnover, free throw and botched hook shot, and ignored for every accomplishment that doesn’t bring a ring.
It’s the curse of every great player that joins a good team in pursuit of a championship. LeBron broke the curse in 2012. Karl Malone touched the tainted gold when he joined the Lakers, and the dark mark still sticks to his legacy.
The quiet win over the Lakers was a reminder that only one thing will validate Dwight Howard, and it’s still a long voyage from now to June.