• October 26, 2014

Howard doesn’t have to be Superman with Rockets

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Posted: Sunday, July 7, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 4:30 am, Sun Jul 7, 2013.

Dwight Howard is no Superman.

He never has been. He tried to don the cape once, leaping from the free-throw line and coming up just short of the rim, tossing the ball into the basket from an inch or two away with such vivacious force that allowed him to still win the 2008 dunk contest.

And that is where Howard has remaining in his NBA career — an unbelievable force that is just inches away. In 2009, he lost the dunk contest to a ball of Kryptonite, Nate Robinson.

Later that year, Howard was on the precipice of winning an NBA title with the Orlando Magic. But, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers dispatched Howard and the Magic in five games.

After that, Howard’s thoughts began to roam.

“Would he win an NBA title?”

“Could he be the guy to lead a team to do it?”

Then he began to make trade demands, flip-flop on what he wanted and more importantly on who he wanted to be.

Four years later, he still faces the same problem — he has never found his identity in the NBA.

He has won a Defensive Player of the Year award, he has made the Finals, he nearly won an MVP. Still, Howard has seemed like a man without a place, a wayward NBA traveler.

Friday, he found his third destination and his third attempt to become the player and the man he has wanted since he was drafted No. 1 overall by the Magic in 2004.

After a disastrous season with the Lakers, Dwight Howard appears ready to join the Houston Rockets.

He announced the move, not like LeBron James with a one-hour tribute special, but with a simple post on Twitter.

“I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its [sic] the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I’m looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best,” he tweeted Friday night.

It was a soft-spoken move for a player known for being a bit of a loudmouth — mainly for feuding with another loudmouth, Stan Van Gundy, who was his coach with the Magic. It also was a quick decision for a player known for waffling.

And for once in his career, it was the right move.

Yes, he took less money, but after $88 million, does an extra 30 really matter? I wish I knew. Oh, I wish I knew.

Money aside, though, for good old-fashioned basketball reasons, this is the right choice.

Was there a better young star for Howard to align with this offseason than James Harden? Harden turns 24 in August, and is coming off a season in which he averaged 25.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.

If the Rockets can turn Omer Asik around for a serviceable power forward they could push 60 wins next season.

That would probably put the Rockets right in between the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs at the top of the West standings in 2012-13. With the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors also loading up and the Memphis Grizzlies still in the picture, the West figures to be top-heavy next season.

No matter how you spin all of that, Houston is in the mix to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1995 and the days of Hakeem Olajuwon.

Yes, this is the same Houston which won only two championships 20 years ago, in large part because Michael Jordan was playing baseball. And Howard did choose it over the Lakers and their 16 NBA title banners.

But the Lakers are old, and if Bryant, who ruptured his Achilles tendon in April, was healthy, staying in L.A. might have been the better move. But, there is no guarantee he will be ready to play at all next season.

Those injuries take a full year to heal, usually, and that means Bryant would re-join the Lakers two weeks before the playoffs. And Nash is 39 years old. And Metta World Peace is, well, Metta World Peace.

That means the season is pretty much a loss. As would have been the Dallas Mavericks — as they waited for cap room in 2014 — if they had gotten Howard. And while I think it would be fascinating to have seen him with all those shooters in Golden State, that route was too complicated.

So, Houston was the easy choice. And while, I still think he is somewhat of a second fiddle to Harden, it is more of a No. 1 and No. 1A scenario than what he had in L.A. with Kobe being the undeniable alpha dog.

More importantly it gives Howard his best chance to shine since that 2009 NBA Finals loss to the Lakers — even if the spotlight he will do it in is smaller than it would have been in L.A.

But after nine years of searching, that’s what Howard needs. He doesn’t need to don a cape and leap over buildings in a single bound.

He just needs to be Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets center.

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