|Dwight Howard had a less than impressive first year in Hollywood. (bleacherreport.com)|
The roller coaster that was the Los Angeles Lakers' 2012-13 came to an end with a anticlimactic sweep in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Not exactly a Hollywood ending. Kobe Bryant's future is in question thanks to a torn Achilles. And Dwight Howard's future is uncertain because he's been, well, Dwight Howard.
Howard's natural athletic ability can be overshadowed by the holes poked in his emotional and personal state. The Lakers would likely want Howard to be the face of the team that it builds around once Bryant hangs up the sneakers, whenever that may be. But many are wondering if Howard can handle all that comes with being a superstar in LA.
It's well known that Howard wants to be a celebrity, as well as a basketball player. Winning games is great and all, but being on TV is cool, too. Was Howard on the phone with his agent trying to get a cameo on Modern Family while the rest of the team was shooting free-throws every day for the past year? That's the only excuse I can think of for shooting 49 percent from the free-throw line. And since he has yet to appear on the popular sitcom, it's not a very good one.
Howard got away with being the joke-cracking, Superman-calling, attention-seeking basketball player he loved portraying in Orlando because he won them games, and they had no other superstar with a different style to compare. But the Lakers have had the pleasure of watching Kobe Bryant for 17 years; a guy who works harder than anyone else, focuses only on basketball and is very serious about winning, and battles through injuries. Not to mention the five championships he's won. That's a hard act to follow, and Howard is not following well.
It was in his Orlando exit that we learned more about the real Dwight Howard. Howard wanted to be in a big city where his stardom could grow. What didn't grow was his likeability or his statistics, as he averaged nearly six fewer points and two fewer rebounds than the 2010-11 season in Orlando (Howard only played in 54 games in 2011-12).
It feels like Howard is trying to be Shaquille O'Neal 2.0, but is falling short in every category. Shaq never averaged fewer than 20 points while in LA and still kept basketball first while juggling a career off the court. Howard is still trying to learn that loveable "Shaq being Shaq" quality that O'Neal had mastered from an early age.
LA is a place that can make a star athlete one of the biggest name in sports, but it and its fans can also rip feeble minds to pieces. Howard has some maturing to do if the Lakers are going to hand him the keys, and he's going to have to decide what his priorities are. Leaving for another team would be the easy thing to do, so if Howard decides to stay in LA and face the critics, that would automatically show growth. But it won't be enough.
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