There was a Dwight Howard sighting in the NBA playoffs last night. The once-dominating center was last seen on the back of a milk carton, playing in the NBA Finals in 2009. Since that lone title run, he’s poked his head into NBA life every now and then over the years with the Lakers and Houston, before catching a three-year, $70 million lick with Atlanta.
But he’s been more malcontent, underachiever and emotional roller coaster with an increasingly sensitive disposition than max-money moment-maker. This season might have actually been his most cordial in a awhile, as he returned home, which brings his journey full circle.
What makes the career of Howard even more frustrating is that in a time when he is like the only true center in the game, he does nothing beyond the basics to impose his will on the court. He's like a huge Denali Truck who runs like an emotional Uber car in crunchtime.
If Atlanta ever needed a motivated Dwight Howard it was Monday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference opening round of the playoffs. With Washington leading the series 2-1, Howard came up big by holding it down defensively and scoring 16 points and pulling 15 rebounds to help Atlanta win the game 111-101 and tie the series up 2-2 with the Washington Wizards, who squandered a great opportunity to move within one game of advancing.
Howard had scored 18 points over the first three games of the series, averaging a typical 11 boards. In the first half alone on Monday he had 14 points and 11 rebounds, reminding everyone of the type of force he could still be -- even in today’s perimeter-oriented NBA.
Howard always posts “stats.” Double-doubles are his birthright. But he’s never fulfilled his potential and never lifted his team to the promise land. Why ?
Well, you never know which D-Howard is going to show up. The half-interested max-money maybe who collects phat checks and catches minimal wreck. Or the 6-foot-11 dominating post threat that can change a game with his defense, experience and effort.
Last night, he was bout that action and it showed. Problem is, his level of engagement changes like the weather, so Atlanta better hope it’s partly cloudy with a chance of throwback Superman Dwight Howard moving in for Games 5 and 6.