I got a weird theory about the current Lakers season that I can't get out of my head. The theory is simple: Dwight Howard is the problem. No, not part of the problem. THE problem. Stats are not going to disprove this theory, by the way. PER and plus-minus and True Shooting Percentage and FGA/FGM have no shot at disproving this thing, so put down the stat sheets. No matter what lather you can work yourself into with your stats, this theory is not about stats. This theory is all about simply accepting the information that your eyes are conducting into your cranium, and allowing it to inform your brain...
As I was watching the Lakes/Clips
game miasma last night, I kind of tuned out when the Clips established early and easy domination. Then towards the end of the first quarter, the Laker B team started to take it to the Clips and before you knew it, it was a three point game with a lot of time left in the 2nd quarter. This is when Mike D'Antoni thought it would be a good time to put back in the A team. Few minutes later, nighty night, Clippers 125 - Lakers 101. But it was during the time in between that THE THEORY reached a certain doneness. It has two parts.
This is Part 1. I realized that during many games this season, I've found myself kind of trancing out while watching Dwight's feet on the floor. Tonight was more of the same. So I decided to take it to the extreme, and turned the sound off, and focused on Dwight's feet and nothing else. What I saw was horrifying. I highly recommend anyone to pick a five minute chunk at any time of almost any game this season, and try it. What you will find is this: them feets don't move. Okay, they move, but take a look. Not much. Dwight walks. He strolls. He stands still. He hops up and down. He occasionally skips, occasionally lopes. Once in a while he dashes two or three steps to the rim. How many times, be honest, have you seen Dwight actually run - not stride - RUN from the offensive basket to the defensive end this season? I can't think of that many. You can say, hey, dude is injured, still not back to playing shape, whatevs. Don't care. Doesn't matter. Feets ain't moving no matter what the reason. Which brings us to the second part of The Theory.
This is Part 2. This part of the theory is about why. Why is it that Dwight's feet don't move? I think I have an idea. Take a step back. Imagine if you will, what it was like to grow up Dwight. As his mom called him, The Miracle Child. Well, it was because he was the first birth after seven consecutive miscarriages, as she's said, but nothing he did throughout his first eighteen years made that moniker seem strange. He was miraculous. I first saw Dwight in person at Staples Center when the Magic came through in his rookie season. (BTW the Lakers starting five was Kobe, Chris Mihm, Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, and Chucky Atkins. And they were 12-8 at the time!) Okay, I looked that up, my memory's not that good. But I will tell you the thing I do remember - Dwight Howard. I saw Shaq in his prime, but I'd never seen a more perfectly crafted, totally outsized human physique. Freakish. That was the word that was stuck in my mind as I left the arena. Not how he played, but what an amazing physical specimen he was. The first time I saw Kevin Garnett in person was a few years before that, and I remember that for different reasons. The Lakers were ripping the Wolves limb from limb, up something like 26 points in the fourth quarter, and Garnett, dripping sweat, was playing harder than anyone on the court, scowling, rebounding, slapping the floor. He knew the game was lost. Didn't care. Didn't matter. And I thought, that guy is a gamer. It takes that kind of willingness to not be embarrassed by defeat, in order to win. (I learned that suffering and rejoicing with the Lakers vs. Celtics in the 80's, btw) I thought, if you could've gotten KG and Kobe on the same team, opponents would've been bumming when they came into town. Which begs the question: why is it that opponents aren't bumming when Kobe and Dwight come to town? Honestly? Based on direct observation of this current half-season? Because Dwight doesn't really care all that much. I'm not busting chops, it's just the way it is. It's the reason those feet don't move. It almost seems like, with all the pressures and expectations and attention this season, that whatever the reason, he's become too embarrassed by losing - and afraid that as a result he'll be blamed for it - to really give it everything he's got. See a theme here? It's the reason Kobe and Steve Nash have not been able to get anything out of the guy thus far other than indifference and inconsistency. Those two guys are gamers. They're not embarrassed by defeat - they don't like it, but they're not embarrassed, much to the continual chagrin of certain L.A. sportswriters - because they play as hard as they can every night. Yeah, Nash missed a lot of the season. Pau's out. Oh, injuries! Blah blah blah. Got zero to do with whether Dwight exerts himself or not. Point is, Nash and Kobe don't seem to know how to deal with a guy who, given the evidence piling up nightly, simply does not really care all that much about winning. He's always been the most gifted, the most admired, the most athletic, the most envied, at every step of his life. Even now, amongst other players who are the best in the game. Maybe that's enough for him. But you don't think Kobe or Nash have ever looked at Dwight for just a second and imagined...Kobe: 'man, put my will to win in that body and see how many rings I end up with.' Nash: 'yep, starting with this season.'
Okay that's my theory. Maybe it's a stupid theory, but it's mine. And I think it's the truth. To me the real mystery now is, what might happen if Dwight sweeps everything else aside and just starts to care about one thing: winning.