Dwight Howard Is Back

— December 14th 2017

Superman still exists, just in purple this time.

By Isaac Biehl

“Washed up” or “soft” are just two of the names Dwight Howard has been called over the last few years.

Ever since he and the Orlando Magic parted ways it seems the once anointed Superman hasn’t been able to perform up to his, or everyone else’ likings, either. This has been what some have seen as likely the end of Howard. Since Orlando, the former Defensive Player of the Year has been on four different teams. However, the struggles leading to his moves weren’t all his fault.

Once he became a member of the Lakers, Howard was plagued by injuries—as was the rest of the team. The Lakers flopping with what looked like a title contender wasn’t just his fault. Then came his three year-tenure with the Houston Rockets. This fared much better than his Lakers’ legacy, but was once again cut a bit short. Aside from he and James Harden not necessarily getting along, the Rockets flat out used Howard wrong when he was one of their biggest keys to being successful.

Dwight Howard Full Highlights vs Trail Blazers 2014 Playoffs West R1G2 – 32 Pts, 14 Reb, 4 Blocks

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Some people don’t remember just how good Dwight was in the 2014 playoffs against the Trail Blazers. Howard averaged 26 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks that series. Those are pretty elite numbers, especially given the setting and importance of those games. Howard was more consistent than Harden that series, yet he still got a lot of blame for losing in the end. Up next was his homecoming with Atlanta, which seemed like it would be great for Howard. That is, until the Hawks seemed to absolutely implode. This team was by far the worst at utilizing the big man and shipped him out after one season. Which brings us to now, the year 2017, where Howard is a current member of the Charlotte Hornets. This time around, however, he’s straight thriving.

Offensively you can tell that Howard is rejuvenated. He already has 11 games with 20 or more points, which matches his total from all of last season. His rebounding has also been spectacular, as he’s notched 20 or more rebounds four times so far and is averaging 12.2 a game. Howard has been a mold of efficiency for most of this season, shooting 56% from the field, and has shown a step in his game that we’ve been missing. Just on December 8th, Howard’s birthday no less, the man put up 25 points, 20 rebounds, six blocks, and two assists. It’s absolutely beautiful to watch Superman begin to fly again. The alley-oops are falling, the smile is there, and so are the… handles? If you haven’t paid close attention you’ve missed that Dwight has improved in ways that no one would have thought possible:

 

Adam Joseph on Twitter

I know he’s not the most popular guy, but I love seeing an engaged Dwight Howard. Especially in 2017, when he’s dribbling it up the floor going coast-to-coast. https://t.co/s5QILnzKFk

Um, when’s the last time you would have ever even considered Dwight Howard doing his best Russell Westbrook one-man-fast break impression? Yeah, never.

CP3sus on Twitter

????AMBER ALERT???? WHO: Nikola Vucevic LAST SEEN: Attempting to guard Dwight Howard PLEASE CALL AUTHORITIES IF FOUND https://t.co/Vg4r7BNmxN

Now Howard is putting people on skates? Incredible.

His highlights have been plentiful already this season, but they aren’t coming easy. The Hornets have been playing a lot of tough competition in the early moments of the year. While 10-16 isn’t the best record, a lot of their games have been played against playoff teams. In fact, all but three of their losses have come from playoff teams: two from the Bulls (ouch) and one from the exciting and young Lakers (they’ve also lost to the Miami Heat twice who share the same record as the 8th seed in the East).

Injuries haven’t helped Charlotte’s situation either, with Nicolas Batum only playing in 12 games so far this season, Cody Zeller about to be out for six weeks, and Kemba Walker missing a couple prior games nursing himself back to health. While right now they wouldn’t be in the playoffs, the Hornets have shown they can compete with the elite teams. Just on December 11th the Hornets bested the Oklahoma City Thunder, a game that Howard left his mark all over as he led the team with 23 points, making his third straight game with 20 or more. Howard has shown his importance to this Hornets roster. If they want to win games and be in the playoff conversation then Howard is one of their most important keys.

This season it’s clear that when Howard is used right, and given the minutes, he has a big impact on a team. It also goes a long way to know he’s healthy. Howard ranks fourth in total rebounds behind only Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, and DeMarcus Cousins. Those are all top big men in the league, and it’s time Howard is kept in that conversation. Over the last few seasons he’s been totally disregarded, but the guy can still play with the best, because he IS one of the best centers the NBA has to offer. He’s always been a constant. A walking double-double. This is something Charlotte owner Michael Jordan must have known bringing him in.

It seems a bit strange Howard is finding a way to revive his career under one of the most coldblooded players to ever step foot on the court, when it seems just like yesterday people were going on about how he and Kobe couldn’t mesh. But this could be all part of the fact that most people have just misunderstood Howard. This whole narrative about him not caring about basketball or not being hungry seems a little far-fetched, especially for us outsiders. Charlotte is giving him a chance to rewrite his story. So far this season he’s done all those little things to show us that he in fact does care, something that probably shouldn’t have been in question to begin with.

With a lot of season left, if the Hornets youth can come together and make it to the playoffs they could be an interesting team to watch in the East. Howard poses a threat to basically every team defensively, and if he keeps up his scoring then it won’t be an easy series to get by Charlotte. They just have to make it there first.

Howard is where that starts. He’s become the heart of the Hornets, essentially. No offense to Kemba, but if Howard isn’t there, this team isn’t built for any kind of deep run. Regardless of if the playoffs are in store this season or not, seeing D12 smiling up and down the court again is a victory for us and for him. Because he’s having fun again.

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