Utterly Fascinating: What About Dwight? – by Sam Accardo

Coming off the All-Star Break (and a great block by Kobe Bryant!), Sam talks about how he became a fan of the Lakers and mentions some thoughts on Dwight Howard not being traded.

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From nbclosangeles.com

I wonder what all those fans who wear Dwight Howard Lakers’ jerseys think as they watch in anguish from the stands. I haven’t talked to a Lakers’ fan who doesn’t think Dwight Howard shouldn’t be a Laker anymore. And honestly, I can’t blame them. Howard was brought to LA unwilling to start with (don’t forget the Lakers’ front office knew that), yet Lakers’ fans far and wide are pissed off that he’s not living up to the name of the franchise.

Am I not a die-hard fan for thinking that doesn’t matter?

Well, if I am then I guess I don’t want to be a die-hard fan. At the end of the day even the Sacra-*COUGH*Seattle*COUGH* Kings can make an argument for that if one of their players is underperforming. Now before you (die-hard Laker fan) grab your torch and/or pitchfork and run to the streets calling for my head, I’m not saying it’s not a privilege to play for one of the greatest teams in the NBA and also the greatest franchise in professional sports. I’m saying every team has history, and it’s all just as valid as the Lakers’. Still think I’m not a fan? Well I think it’s a good time to explain how I became a fan of the Lakers given they’re one game into the final stretch to the playoffs. And it isn’t because they have 16 NBA titles (It was 15 when I started paying attention).

Living in LA, it’s impossible not to know about the Lakers. Even though the only thing that sports meant to me back before college was time not spent playing video games, I still knew who Kobe Bryant was and that he was pretty much the best player in the NBA. The Lakers didn’t seem like a sports team to me, but an entertaining TV show that aired a few nights out of the week that I skipped over while looking for the Simpsons. But shortly after I started dating my girlfriend over three years ago, I started to get into football because she was into football. And I don’t know what it was; maybe I was getting a little tired of video games. Maybe something about sports just finally started to appeal to me. But after I started watching football, I couldn’t stop. I now watch the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL as often as I can. I’ll watch SportsCenter whenever I can catch it and I love reading about stats and matchups. But before it got that far and I was just watching football, I figured it was time to start watching basketball. And since I’ve lived in LA County all my life, rooting for the Lakers seemed like the right choice. Admist the 2009-2010 season, it was a good choice.

I actually toyed around with the idea of being a Clippers fan, but that was a few years before Chris Paul came to LA and something about the purple and gold just won me over. (I’m sure it had nothing to their standings that 2009-2010 season.) But to give you an idea of how little I knew about basketball, I didn’t even know the Lakers were the defending champs in their 2009-2010 season. I didn’t know that Boston was their arch-rival and that it was a rematch of the 2008 Finals. At the time, I had just gone through intensive jaw surgery and I was on strict diet of Boost (for breakfast and Ensure for dessert) and pain killers. I remember laying on my back, lightly cheering through a wall of rubber bands holding my jaw together as the Lakers came back to win game 6 and 7 at home after the Celtics went up 3-2 in the series. Watching a championship earned live was fascinating to me. It’s why I watch the Finals every year. Who doesn’t want to see the champion be crowned? They earned it. (Two die-hard fans just stopped reading.)

Whoa Sam, your team wins a championship and now you’re a “true fan”? Way to enjoy the fair weather.

Tell that to all the Kings fans with brand-spankin’ new black and silver New Era hats. In a summer that was dominated by me waking up and going downstairs to watch mind-numbing daytime television while holding ice packs up to my face all day, watching the Lakers win a championship was something that stuck with me throughout the whole summer. It was the silver lining to my summer of boredom. I was so sick from the meds and my diet (or lack thereof) I couldn’t even sit up to read a comic book, let alone play video games. But all I needed to do to watch the Lakers was sit back and enjoy the ride.

The reason I’m recounting this tale, is because I think it’s an importance preface to my opinions on Dwight Howard, and why I’m very happy he wasn’t moved out of LA before the trade deadline. I was talking to Kenny (friend and long-time Lakers fan) and he wanted Dwight out. I disagree, but I can’t disagree with his reasons of why he doesn’t want him wearing the purple and gold. He says that Dwight Howard undermines the team. Now, I can’t disagree with that because there have been plenty of nights when Dwight Howard needed to step up, but he didn’t, and the Lakers lost. There seems to be endless locker room drama (but I’m of the opinion that’s more media than anything), and it’s like the Shaq and Kobe years all over again. Ya know, the ones where they didn’t win championships. But does that mean that Howard and Bryant will never be eye to eye?

Well, if the strong win against Boston just two nights ago counts for anything, I think they will. Kobe and Howard had a night where they both played well. Sure, Kobe only hit 5 shots out of 15 from the field (with a startling 0 of 4 from behind the line), he had 7 assists which counts for at least 14 points in my book. And when you consider the Lakers won by 14 points, those assists carry quite a bit more weight. Howard had a great night on offense shooting 10-13 and grabbing 12 boards and had a total of 24 points. And that’s fantastic. I have no criticism of Dwight’s play that night. But the question every Lakers fan has been asking (almost rhetorically at this point) is “will they build off of it?” And the problem is, we haven’t seen them answer that. In fact, the Lakers’ longest win-streak so far is 5 games. On the “Grammy trip” where the Lakers went 4-3 on the road, they only had a streak of 3 wins peppered with ugly losses to Phoenix and Boston. But I like to think that the Lakers have been playing better now as opposed to 2 months ago. Take that for what it’s worth.

But something that I will always hold on to is that even though the Lakers are playing badly, if this has been the Lakers playing badly, I can’t wait to see when the Lakers are really playing like a team. And they’ve shown instances of what that looks like. But we don’t want moments of greatness, we just want greatness. The Lakers haven’t lived up to that yet. Dwight Howard hasn’t lived up to that yet. And there are quite a few players that haven’t lived up to that on the team in my opinion. But it all has to start somewhere. And with the final stretch finally here, the Lakers fortunately have a relatively easy schedule with only a few “elite” teams (top 4 in both conferences in my opinion) and no more excuses. They had a real test against Boston. Sure, it was at home, but a 113-99 score is a good win and Boston drubbed them not too long ago either. It’s all gotta start somewhere.

Let’s face it folks, this season is still Utterly Fascinating.

Sam Accardo is a writer for Hefferbrew. He took a break that was only supposed to last as long as the All-star Break (best block of the season!), but it lasted a little longer while he composed his thoughts on Dwight Howard. Keep checking back in for more Utterly Fascinating updates on all things Lakers. And make sure to check Hefferbrew daily for all things awesome. We’re on twitter and facebook too!

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