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Dwight Howard Not Good Enough -- Yet

Jun 8, 2009 – 8:20 PM
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Matt Steinmetz

Matt Steinmetz %BloggerTitle%

Dwight HowardWhen center Dwight Howard unties his basketball shoes for the last time, maybe a dozen or more years down the line, it's conceivable he could be mentioned among the greats of the game at that position.

At 23, he's already got some pretty impressive numbers, and they're likely to rise some more in the coming years. It's already impressive that Howard has played in an NBA Finals, been on two All-NBA first teams and won the Defensive Player of the Year award.

So you can see how Howard might end up being one of the greats. That's all well and good, but the problem for Orlando is that Howard isn't good enough right now.

That's not to say he's not good. Of course he is. Very good, in fact. After all, who will argue if you call him the best center in the NBA? It's just that he needs to be better for the Magic to beat the Lakers, and it's the kind of better that will take years, not games.

Too bad for the Magic Howard isn't yet in his prime. They might have had a shot at this.

Here's what Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith said about Howard before Game 1: "He's gotten better. But he's a long ways away. He's still a long ways away. He's really good right now. In about two years he's going to be ... I see him being unbelievable."

So far, the Lakers have neutralized Howard, holding him to 29 total points in two games and under 50 percent from the field. L.A. has managed to take away virtually all of Howard's easy garbage-type stuff. As a result, Howard's low-post game has had to speak for itself.

It's been quiet.

Dwight Howard and Pau GasolPerhaps not coincidentally, Howard hasn't been much of a factor at the defensive end. Sure, he's on an island down there, and he's blocked a few shots, but Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom don't seem to be intimidated.

The point here isn't to pick on Howard or his low-post game. The Cavaliers tried to guard Howard one-on-one for a lot of the Eastern Conference finals, and Howard tore them up.

And for as well as Kendrick Perkins played Howard in the Eastern semis, Howard still was the most dominant player in that series.

But the Lakers are making a point of accounting for Howard – on every single trip up the court, whether it's in the halfcourt or in transition (not that there's been much). They are throwing different looks at him with different bodies, most of them big bodies, but then again sometimes small.

They're fouling Howard before he can get any cheapies. And they're swarming him just enough so as to not allow him into a comfort level. Hence, the seven turnovers on Sunday.

Howard's game is just not evolved enough at this point in his career for him to play as well as he would need to play for the Magic to win the series. And it can't evolve until he goes through these kinds of series, where he gains this kind of experience.

"The things he's doing right now are sheer athleticism," Smith said. "He's got a hook around the basket. He's still learning what to do, what not to do. The best game I've seen him play was Game 6 of that last series (Cleveland). Probably because he wasn't in a hurry.

"He passed the ball out of the double-team. When they didn't double-team, he scored. When you're 23 you have a tendency to think that scoring is the only way you can affect the game. As you get older you realize that there are other ways to affect the game. He'll do that when he gets older."

Unfortunately, the Magic need him to do it right now.

Latest NBA Finals Photos

    Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates beating the Orlando Magic in overtime in Game 2 of their NBA Finals in Los Angeles June 7, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

    Reuters

    Orlando guard Courtney Lee (11) shoots over Los Angeles center Pau Gasol (16) with .5 seconds left in regulation of Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Lee missed the shot, and the Lakers went on to defeat the Magic in overtime, 101-96, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, Sunday, June 7, 2009. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

    MCT

    Orlando Magic forward Rashard Lewis (9) laments in the fourth quarter after the Magic miss a shot with .06 left, as the Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher looks on. The Lakers defeated the Magic, 101-96, in overtime of Game 2 of the NBA Finals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, Sunday, June 7, 2009. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

    MCT

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 7: Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan and father Danny Kwan attend Game Two of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic at Staples Center on June 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Michelle Kwan;Danny Kwan

    Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 7: Producer Sean 'P.Diddy' Combs attends Game Two of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic at Staples Center on June 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Sean Combs

    Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES - JUNE 7: Jameer Nelson #14 of the Orlando Magic shoots against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game Two of the 2009 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jameer Nelson

    NBAE/Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES - JUNE 7: Luke Walton #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends against Rashard Lewis #9 of the Orlando Magic during Game Two of the 2009 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Rashard Lewis;Luke Walton

    NBAE/Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES - JUNE 7: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic #12 shoots against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game Two of the 2009 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Dwight Howard

    NBAE/Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES - JUNE 7: Kobe Bryant #24 and Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers hug against the Orlando Magic during Game Two of the 2009 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Lamar Odom;Kobe Bryant

    NBAE/Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES - JUNE 7: Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks during the post game press conference after Game Two of the 2009 NBA Finals between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on June 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Jon Soohoo/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Lamar Odom

    NBAE/Getty Images

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