I thought it was highly amusing that the paper of record in Oklahoma City, The Oklahoman, had a sports extra that showed a picture of Kevin Durant surrounded by three Grizzlies players with the headline reading, Mr. Unreliable.
It made me think of two things: how reliable the media is when trying to capture the angst and disappointment of the locals, and…Dwight Howard.
First an acknowledgment: I want to thank Steven Hicks for the following information. Hey, “Stick,” thanks for all the hard work!
Now, a disclaimer: I respect Dwight Howard greatly and hold the person he is away from the court in high regard. But I think on the court he is a frontrunner and in the world of professional sports being a frontrunner makes you a pariah.
Dwight Howard has faced seven elimination games in his career, where his team would be summarily booted from the postseason if they lost. He’s 3-4 in those games. But it’s not the won loss record that seems to prove his front-running ways, it’s the process of how he competes and the relative lack of production in those games that is interesting.
He’s been in foul trouble in all seven games. This, in and of itself, is not disparaging because big men that are shot blockers often times get into trouble. But I do find it fascinating that Howard gets himself in trouble so much of the time by committing ill-advised fouls when his team needs him most. It should also be noted that in 2012-13, when playing for the Lakers, he was ejected from Game 4 after receiving his 2nd technical. The Lakers were swept by the Spurs last year and that seemed to be the coup de grace for Howard’s time in LA.
In only two of the seven elimination games he has played in Dwight has posted “Howard Type” numbers. In 2008-09, against Boston in a Game 6, despite having five fouls, he put up a 23/22 game. He followed that game up, Game 7, by getting into foul trouble again and scoring 12 points. The Magic won both those games but Howard’s performance was mixed.
And last night, facing elimination in Houston, Howard produced a 22 point, 14 rebound game where he got into foul trouble in the first half and then responded with an excellent performance in the second half.
In the season of 2008-09 most NBA analysts believed Howard was enjoying a coming out party of sorts and was poised to lay claim to the Next Great Big Man Title. The Orlando Magic finished the season 59-23, won the Southeast division, were a #3-seed in the Eastern Conference and advanced to the NBA Finals — where they lost to the Lakers in five games.
That was a long time ago. Maybe Wednesday night’s performance by Dwight Howard is the new beginning of his big man payoff…or not.