By: John Eby
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 third installment.
Thursday night's loss to the Lakers was Dwight Howard's worst-case scenario come to life. He wasn't only defeated on his home court by a depleted version of his former team; his putrid 5 for 14 performance from the free throw line--including a poor response to a late-game Hack-a-Dwight session--made a difference in the one-point loss.
In the easy-to-digest narrative of this season, this was Dwight Howard's failure at the cave. He faced his demons, and his shortcomings were revealed. The same may be said of Houston's losses in three of its past four games. But I'm here to tell you that Dwight Howard is not the problem...which may be a bigger problem.
In each of Houston's last three losses, the Rockets biggest bugaboos could not be laid at Howard's feet. Much was made of Harden's poor defense in Houston's first loss to the Clippers, and frankly, that failure was too complete to lay at the feet of any one player.
But against the Lakers, much more conspired to cost Houston the game than Howard's performance. Howard and Asik managed to hold the Lakers 39 percent shooting from the floor, while Houston's guards gave up 45 percent shooting from three. On the other end, Houston's shooters failed to capitalize on the space Howard created for them by whiffing on their threes, going 7-27.
Against the Clippers on Saturday night, it was a similar story. Houston outscored L.A. 54-46 in the paint. Yet again, the Clippers shot a decent 37 percent from three, while Houston shot 26 percent.
As popular as it could be to blame Dwight Howard for Houston's recent losses, the truth is that he's mostly doing what is expected of him: protecting the paint, grabbing boards, attracting the defense away from shooters. It's Houston's wing players who aren't holding up their end of the bargain. Much has been written about Harden's defense, but he's not the only one to blame. On the other end, Francisco Garcia has gone 2-14 from three in Houston's losses. In fact, Garcia and Omri Casspi combined are 2-18 from behind the arc in Houston's last two games. Most of those looks have been open, the result of Howard's muscular personage in the lane.
Right now, Dwight isn't making excuses about why his team is losing, but his teammates are giving him some good ones. The last thing Houston needs to give Dwight Howard is a reason to get sick of his teammates.