A Glitchy Look at… The End of the Dwightmare*
*I’m crossposting this from That’s Glitchy because I felt I owed you guys something more than a couple witty remarks about this. Shouts to NBA Dribbled Out for linking me to the Kelly Dwyer article.
It should figure that the biggest trade of the offseason and certainly the biggest personnel move by any team since Lebron’s Decision, would end in an anticlimactic midnight announcement. After all, Dwight Howard had stretched his personal decision just about as long as it could go. Were we really supposed to believe that someone who hadn’t even tried to hide his contempt, who had accused his own team of blackmailing him into signing a contract extension, was actually going to stay in Orlando for the whole season? Few had predicted it, though once the Brooklyn Nets took themselves out of the running, it seemed more plausible. During the Olympics, as the USA steamrolled through the competition, Dwight’s name wasn’t even mentioned once, something that surprised my more cynical side.
Of course, now that the trade is done, everybody is losing their collective shit, in one way or another. Some, like Yahoo!’s Kelly Dwyer, want to make sure you know who Dwight Howard really is.
“He lied to all of you about ‘loyalty,’ last March. Lied. To. You. Looked in the camera and lied to you, whether you live in either Florida or California’s Orange County, or you’re reading this site from a time zone that has you up at four in the morning. Dwight Howard lied to you on record and in writing, whether you’re a fan of the Magic or not, about what he really wanted. He lied to his teammates, he lied to his front office, he lied to the press that had to show up to talk to him in March, and he lied to the children that he couldn’t muster up the courage to face at a camp their parents paid money for them to attend.”
Kelly’s right on virtually every account. We joke about Dwight’s flip-flopping because it’s become ridiculous. How could someone so publicly change his mind and be so evidently a coward? I’m not trying to sound as melodramatic as KD here, but isn’t that what all this adds up to? Dwight didn’t want to be hated, he wanted to be loved, and for most of his career, he was. A smiling Superman, a low-fat Shaq, a 7-foot goofball who looked like Eddie Murphy. Everything ESPN and the public at large could want out of a superstar. Well, they wanted one more thing, as they always do. They wanted him to be humble. I wanted him to be humble. Maybe I’m spoiled by living in Chicago, with the “shut up and play ball” attitude of Derrick Rose, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and countless men before and after them. Maybe because we all think how players are rated on NBA2K are how they should be valued in real life, not taking into account their personalities, their relationships, their posses, their hopes, their dreams, and their desires. We keep trying to convince ourselves that if a player is good, then he doesn’t need anything else.
But Dwight Howard is a man, and as most men are, as most men have been raised in this world that rewards both the gifted and the rich, he wants more. He wanted to live in a big city, where he could become a celebrity, which is why he also looked at the Jay-Z owned Brooklyn Nets. He was prepared to go there without any semblance of a good team, as Brooklyn would have traded every available asset for Dwight. Displaying the naiveté of his age, the 26-year old baller thought it was in the bag. He talked about it. He mused about it. Often subtly, sometimes less, it seemed in the bag, another conquest for the league’s best center.
Only he forgot that he wasn’t the only man with a dream. Rich DeVos, Rob Hennigan, Otis Smith, Jacque Vaughn, Stan Van Gundy, Alex Martins, and virtually every player to walk into that locker room in Orlando all had a dream-or in some of the poor bastards’ cases, still have a dream-to win an NBA title for the Orlando Magic. That dream is now firmly planted in their minds, certainly not to be lived out with the starting five of Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, and Nikola Vucevic. Afflalo, a well-respected shooting guard on the verge of a breakout, was the first to dip his feet into the now icy waters that surround Orlando, saying “With the coaching change and the management change, I think it’s a great time to be a part of the organization.” Bless his heart. Seriously, this is a guy who was sitting poolside in Barcelona and found out about being in, likely, the most forgotten part of this trade via twitter. The Magic do not have much, not anymore, but they have a guy who wants to play basketball for them, which is a hell of a lot more than they could say about Dwight.
Now here’s the part where you and I get mad. It’s the part where we remember that Dwight won. He won this. He could never win a title in Los Angeles, become a convicted rapist, and hang himself in a jail cell, and there will still be no escaping the fact that he won this trade. He wanted it, he got it. He bitched and moaned and lied and was an all around douchebag for the past two fucking years, and he got exactly what he wanted. He will be loved in LA (at least when the Clippers aren’t in town) and he will become famous and, perhaps most sickeningly of all, if he plays well, we will forget this. We will, ostensibly, forgive him. We’ve forgiven Lebron, haven’t we? We might hate the Miami Heat, but goddammit, they won the title. They’re the best. Lebron is the best, and that means we have to respect him.
This is what sports does to us. It is truly a religion. As the Christian god (hey, I’m an atheist, so forgive the secular descriptions and the lowercase “g”) cast Adam and Eve out of Eden for eating an apple that made them smarter, drowned the world of sinners only to reward Noah with his own life, and ensured his only son died for the sins of man, the end result was respect. Christians get angry at god, but they kneel before his decisions, for he is god. He can do that, and what he does is amazing. Dwight Howard can do this. He can be that asshole for two years, and get that trade, and if he wins, respect will be ensured. Because he’s amazing. Michael Vick is respected, and he forced dogs to fight each other to the death for sport and money, something that’s infinitely worse than anything Dwight Howard has ever done.
I don’t know how I really feel about this. I can already feel my love of the game, the actual game itself, chipping away at my cynicism. We are about to see some amazing basketball. Drool-inducing basketball. The kind of basketball that makes me love this game in the first place. Every team will be pick-and-rolled to death by the masterful distributions of Steve Nash. Every team will bow before the power of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. Every team will know that Kobe’s the one who’s taking the shot, yet can only watch as he racks up 25 points night after night after night. Even Kelly Dwyer confesses amongst his justified frustration, “We love what this team could give us.” Yes, the Lakers will be hated. They will be despised. They will be feared.
But goddammit, they will be respected.
Somewhere, Stan Van Gundy is laughing his ass off.
The Indiana Pacers are a well-oiled team in the mold of the Sixers; except, where the Sixers faltered in the season’s second half, the Pacers exploded. Danny Granger found his shot (and his confidence); Roy Hibbert continued to improve; David West has added some much—needed toughness (remember, he knocked out the Cavs mascot); Paul George let everyone know he has an all-star birth on the horizon; George Hill supplanting Darren Collison in the starting unit meant more ball movement to start the game and infused the 2nd unit with Collison’s quickness and scoring. They have been on a tear down the stretch and it means they’re matched-up against possibly the worst team to make the playoffs.
Dwight Howard is gone. Not for the reasons everyone thought before the trade deadline, but because of a herniated disc in his back (back injuries are the knee injuries of 2012). Because of Howard’s absence, the Magic have basically nothing in the way of defense. Despite Howard’s childish behavior with Stan Van Gundy and the people of Orlando, he was everything they needed to defend the rim. Look for the Howard-less Magic to get lit up most nights by the well-balanced Pacers attack. Sure, they’ll hit some 3’s to keep some games close, and they’ll steal a game at home when new top-dog Ryan Andersen goes off, but it’s a far cry from what they could have been if Howard had stayed healthy (that he stayed in Orlando at all, is a minor miracle).
Head to Head this season - Magic won 3-1 (but Howard played in all 4 games)
Pacers in 5
Game 1 - Sat. April 28, Orlando at Indiana, 7 p.m./4 p.m., ESPN
Game 2 - Mon. April 30, Orlando at Indiana, 7:30 p.m./4:30 p.m., NBA TV
Game 3 - Wed. May 2, Indiana at Orlando, 7:30 p.m./4:30 p.m., NBA TV
Game 4 - Sat. May 5, Indiana at Orlando, 2 p.m./11 a.m., ESPN
Game 5 * Tue. May 8, Orlando at Indiana, TBD
Game 6 * Fri. May 11, Indiana at Orlando, TBD
Game 7 * Sun. May 13, Orlando at Indiana, TBD
I love this Pacers team. And I hate this Magic team. I’m really not even sure how the Magic win as many games as they do with one of the shittiest rosters in the league. Teams should not be built out of white guys who shoot threes. That’s not good foundation for a house, that’s extra stuff, like a colorful shower curtain, or some stained glass hanging in the window. Add in a couple of the world’s worst point guards (hey Chris Duhon) and a litany of big men who have no idea how to play like big men (although putting 6’9” Big Baby at center doesn’t help) and you got yourself a real shit sandwich. You know what the Magic should do? Get rid of everybody. Every single player. There is not one player on this team worth keeping. Not one. We can fault Dwight Howard for being an asshole all we want, because he is, but the rest of the team is full of assholes too! You have well-known asshole J.J. Redick, a guy who only plays when he feels emotionally up to it in Jameer Nelson, the guy who likes going to clubs when he has “the flu” Hedo Turkoglu (rhyming not intentional), and the previously mentioned Chris Duhon, who I thought had been kicked off the team no less than twice this season. I could be imagining things, but I’m pretty sure I’m not.
Then look at the Pacers. This is a team that DESERVES to no longer be humble. They’re good! Real good! David West is like that sixth man who can do it all, except you can start him and he’ll still be good! Danny Granger got his swag back, Paul George is a revelation, and Dr. Hibbert is chuckling all the way to Pawnee. I know that’s not a comment on his game, but I love the guy. Throw in a still-getting-better Darren Collison, and you got yourself a stew goin’.
Pacers in 5