Deep down in a place he would never, ever admit exists, Dwight Howard is having second thoughts about leaving Orlando for Los Angeles.
You know he is.
He has to be.
We all know that Dwight, more than anything else in this world, wants to be loved. And he is definitely not loved in L.A. like he was loved in Orlando.
He will never be loved anywhere like he was loved in Orlando.
He is just a hired hand now on Kobe's team – a fall-guy to take the blame when things go bad. And, good grief, are things going bad. Do you realize if the Magic beat the Hawks tonight, they will have a better record than the Dwight and the Lakers (9-13), who have lost 8 of their last 11 following Tuesday night's defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Granted, this season may improve dramatically for the lackluster Lakers, and all may turn out well for Dwight. When Steve Nash returns to the lineup, the Lakers' chemistry may improve, they may go on a run and perhaps they might even win a championship.
Dwight better hope so, because if not he's going to be torched and scorched not only by West Coast fans and media, but by all fans and media. And isn't this the main difference between L.A. and Orlando?
When the Magic didn't win a championship, fans and media blamed everybody but Dwight. If the Lakers don't win a championship, fans and media will blame Dwight and nobody else.
He is the most dominant big man in the league. He is the player who was brought in to help Kobe win his sixth ring. He is the guy who is supposed to take the torch from Kobe and make the Lakers great for years to come. If none of that happens, Dwight will be vilified noisily and nationally.
A perfect example of what I'm talking about: Remember when the Magic were in the Finals against the Lakers and Howard missed two free throws at the end of Game 4 that allowed L.A. to rally, win the game and pretty much secure the series? The reaction among Orlandoans was essentially, "Don't you dare blame our Dwight in shining armor! The Magic wouldn't even be in the playoffs if not for him!"
Can you imagine if Dwight missed two free throws to cost the Lakers a chance at a championship? Geez, we're barely 20 games into his first season in L.A., and Dwight is already being emasculated for his abysmal free-throw shooting. A few days ago, he became so defensive about the media's line of questioning that he found it necessary to absolve himself of any blame following another loss.
"People are going to say what they're going to say," Howard said. "But at the end of the day, the reason we lost is not my free throws."
I've said it once and I'll say it again: Depending on your perspective, this is going to be really fun or really painful to watch. When the ultra-sensitive Howard was in Central Florida, he actually thought the Orlando Sentinel was tough on him. Good grief, wait until the pitbulls in the big-boy media do what they do to players who don't win championships.
And wait until TMZ and the tabloids start delving into his personal life and contacting all of his ex-girlfriends in search of something tantalizing and scandalous.
I wonder if the words of Magic owner Rich DeVos have started to resonate yet? A few months before Dwight left the Magic, DeVos warned him that he would be giving up something in Orlando that he would probably never be able to duplicate anywhere else.
"When you're young, sometimes you don't realize … that the loyalty you develop in a community is always remembered," DeVos said. "But if you leave, you don't pick it up in the next town. It's not an add-on because you lose what you had. Maybe you gain some new [love], but maybe you don't. Maybe the net gain isn't as good as you think."
Deep down in a place he would never, ever admit exists, Dwight Howard is having second thoughts.
You know he is.
He has to be.
He may be on a much bigger stage in L.A., but the audience has no communal bond with him and never will.
He is known, but not loved.
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