Dwight Howard is used to being called a lot of things, but one thing you can’t say about him is that he is not self-aware. In fact, Howard perfectly understand why people boo him.
After demanding a trade from the Orlando Magic a couple of years ago and after experiencing a tumultuous and disappointing stint with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, it is easy to see why there is no shortage of fans who boo Howard on a nightly basis. Whereas some players might act like they don’t understand why they are booed, here is what Dwight told the Houston Chronicle after he was booed by Orlando Magic fans:
“I played here. People are upset I left so they’re going to boo. They’re going to let their frustrations out. That’s totally understandable. I appreciate all the fans that did cheer. The reason I left had nothing to do with the fans.”
Of course, the fans don’t really care why Howard left — they just care that he left. Regardless, Dwight is at a point now in his career at which he is able to smile again. Why? There are several reasons:
Certainly people still expect big things from Dwight, but the crushing pressure that he felt as a new member of the Lakers is gone. The Rockets don’t expect Dwight Howard to carry the team — they simply expect him to fit in and contribute, which Howard is doing well.
The 17.1 points per game that Howard averaged last year with the Lakers was his lowest average of points per game since his second season in the league. This year, Dwight has picked that average back up to 18.9 points per game. The biggest difference is that Howard isn’t expected to be the only offense on the team — something that wasn’t true last year with the Lakers after superstar guard Kobe Bryant was injured.
Though a lineup that included Howard, Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash could have been formidable, the group was never able to click. The mix of teammates on the Rockets is much more complementary to Howard’s game. With point guard Jeremy Lin dishing the ball and swingman James Harden taking some of the offensive burden on himself, the situation for Dwight with the Rockets is perfect.
Time will tell if Dwight Howard will continue to be happy in Houston, but if the first 62 games of the 2013-2014 season is any indication, the boos can keep coming and Dwight will keep smiling through them.
Image via USA Today