Dwight Howard and the Lakers went back to Orlando to play the Magic for the first time this season last night. Dwight walked onto the floor with both boos and cheers. The Lakers easily handled the Magic in a 106 to 97 victory. Howard had 39 points on 7 of 13 shooting. He made 25 free throws out of 39 attempts from the “Hack-a-Howard” “strategy” of play. And Dwight just smiled the whole time.
I can’t blame the fans for booing Dwight Howard. If you look at what happened with Lebron James leaving Cleveland in grand fashion by making The Decision (which was way worse than anything Dwight did), the fans in Orlando don’t even look nearly as worse. I don’t think I’ve heard anything about the Magic’s owner sending out a public letter badmouthing Howard. But something that never ceases to amaze me is that fans feel like they never saw this coming. As a Lakers fan I still disagree with Derek Fisher no longer being a Laker. I think he would’ve made this a much more stable season, and seeing him in an OKC jersey still feels strange. But that’s the game. Dems da breaks. So amongst the boos and almost constant *COUGH*flagrant*COUGH* fouls, Howard just enjoyed the game, and dropped 39 big points on his old team. Dwight may have just smiled off the floor, but he said everything he needed to when he was on it.
Going into this game I wanted to see Dwight Howard have a great game and the Lakers play and act like a team, and that’s what I saw. With Kobe and Howard wrapping their arms around each other, and the overall positive demeanor of the team, it’s impossible to say that there are chemistry problems anymore. Don’t get me wrong, the regular season is still along and a losing streak could easily dash the playoff hopes of the Lakers if Utah or Houston suddenly get hot in the last 10 games of the season. But we’re finally seeing the team play consistent. The bench being run by Steve Blake on the point looked great last night and I hope D’Antoni keeps that in mind when he thinks about tonight’s rotation in Atlanta.
So while the Lakers still have improvements to make, and more room to grow, the Lakers are looking real good. And if this is the Lakers just hitting their stride, imagine what happens when Pau Gasol finally gets back into the rotation. That is, if he still comes off the bench. But given the fact Gasol may not run the pick and roll nearly as well as Howard is at this point, I don’t see why there is any reason to not have Gasol be the “centerpiece” of the bench. Every game is a “real test” of this team, but I like to think that Atlanta at home (after the Lakers nearly let the last game between them get away from them just to win by 1 point) is a good test of this Lakers team on the road. Look, Orlando might have had something to prove, but all it seemed to be was about fouling Dwight. It was stupid, and the coach should feel bad for making that his gameplan. Or the players. Or whoever came up with it. Dwight completely countered the strategy making 25 of 39 free throws for 64 percent. Orlando deserved to lose that game, despite Jameer Nelson doing all he could to beat his former teammate.
Sam Accardo is a writer for Hefferbrew. He thinks that the “Hack-a-Howard” strategy is cheap despite it being possible. Spawn camping is a legitimate strategy, but that doesn’t mean those gamers are any less of a bitch for it. Follow him @samcar455 and follow the @hefferbrew for more Utterly Fascinating updates.