Was Dwight Howard wrong for calling out his coach after the Orlando Magic's Game 5 loss to Boston? We can debate that forever and in truth, he probably was. After all, it's not like he did anything to step up to stop the bleeding during that fourth quarter collapse. Plus, calling out people is the press isn't for everyone, because he's not Phil Jackson.
But I do believe that this is a step in the right direction in the evolution of Dwight Howard. It wasn't that long ago that he planned on converting all of his teammates.
Dwight Howard has always been accused of being too nice. He's always joking, smiling, and laughing; enjoying himself. What's wrong with this guy? He's out there, having fun playing basketball, when he needs to get serious about this kid's game that he's paid millions to play. He should have never let Nate Robinson jump over him to win the slam dunk contest. He should have put his boot heel on Robinson's throat to assure that he won this exhibition that will do as much for his career as it did for Harold Miner's. The kid's just got no killer instinct, no competitive drive. He's just having too much fun.
While I think that his critics took it a little bit too far in their characterization of him, they are right about one thing: He needs to start demanding the ball. And I'm hoping that last night's press conference was the beginning of a new Dwight Howard.
I'm not saying I want him trashing everyone in the press or just being rude for the sake of being rude. He's not Shaquille O'Neal. I think Dwight Howard's a good guy in a league that doesn't have enough of them. He seems to get along with everyone and everyone seems to get along with him. More than anyone else in the league, his face and energy show that he's just enjoys playing basketball all day.
Happiness doesn't win championships, though. If he wants to be the leader of this team, carry them on his back (because Lord knows Rashard Lewis won't do it), and get them where they trying to go, then it's time to start ruffling feathers.
The great leaders don't sit back and watch their teams fall apart. The great leaders don't worry about feelings. If they did stuff like that, Kevin Garnett wouldn't have left Glen Davis in tears at the end of the bench.
The great leaders don't do this because they're self-serving; they do it because it needs to be said.
His timing might have been off, but his intent was dead on. "Get me the damn ball." If that's what needs to be said, then as a leader on this team (and as it's unquestioned best player), he needs to say it. If his team needs to play better defense or execute better or get to player meetings on time, then he needs to say it. He needs to be unafraid to grab Rafer Alston by the jersey and tell him to get the entry pass right or go back to And 1.
The fact that he was so tentative to speak his mind during the press conference shows that he's uncomfortable doing it. It's probably because he was saying it in a press conference, instead of directly to the coach, like he was supposed to. Hey, nobody's perfect. But if he wants his team to act right, he'll get over it.
Of course, he also needs to step up. I didn't see Dwight Howard (Defensive Player of the Year, mind you) doing anything to hold it together. There were no blocked shots, and while I understand it's hard to get rebounds when the other team isn't missing shots, Orlando was still throwing up a lot of bricks. The greats do everything they can to keep the team afloat, and he didn't. He still has no post game after five years. He still can't shoot free throws. Kendrick Perkins was still pushing him around. But hey, you gotta learn to pick your battles. He's still new at this.
Keep it up, though, Dwight. As the leader, it's your job to keep everyone on their toes. You're supposed to point out if you think the coach or your guys are doing something wrong. That's why they put your face on the program. But you can't be that leader if you're keeping your mouth shut. Leaders speak up and when they don't, teams lose.
Just look at the Atlanta Hawks.