Dwight Howard: Foul Magnet or Mastermind?
It has been a sufficient amount of time since the Magic’s completion of a first round sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats, which allows for us to review the important aspects of the team’s play. What can we learn about where the Magic are headed, and what roadblocks may be in their way? Outside of the scrupulous look into the effects that a superior mascot will have (such agility is to be “feared and revered”, to repeat a quote my high school field hockey coach told us in regards to our fat cheerleaders dance squad), we must also focus on the elements of the on-court situation; or in this case, on-court for only a short while.
“Whose wand do I have to wave to get a whistle around here, fellas?’
After this series, when any fan thinks roadblock, they think one thing: How can Dwight hold himself to the standard he set through all four games? How exactly can he match the precedence of staying on the floor for no longer than a nine minute span? What can he do to accomplish an extraordinary feat such as being called for two fouls in 11 seconds?
It’s no secret that, through the years, the Orlando Magic has combined their top-tier training and Dwight’s insatiable work ethic to turn him into an unstoppable force of flailing arms, screams of protest and an undeniable leader of supportive comments from the bench.
His accomplishments in the first round were a salient combination of amazing timing and painstakingly planned effort. This is a team that needs him to ride the proverbial pine during the most crucial parts of a game. During the first minutes of a game, when Orlando is trying to establish a tempo and identity, one cannot let Dwight just roam the paint, blocking shots on one end and scoring at will on the other. Even the passes out of the double team only work for so long, and then the team becomes predictable.
And this is when he strikes. Just when things are clicking perfectly (or just when they are about to, as we have learned), Dwight will change everything up by enticing a player to lock his arm during an entry pass, forcing him to make a move and toss that player across the hardwood. Or maybe he makes the most minute contact, cataclysmically resulting in the player falling to the ground in a heap. He’s even been known to jump for a rebound at just the right time, making sure there is some kind of contact that would normally go ignored. But Dwight also makes sure that the refs know he is there, and just by him being there, the team benefits from him not being there anymore.
You may be wondering why you’ve never noticed this cunning side of D12 before. Maybe you’ve spent too much time buying into the media hype about Dwight only knowing how to dunk and being such a “nice guy.” Well, let’s look at some details from the first round that may open your eyes:
Game 1, Foul 1
Dwight invites Tyson Chandler to back him down into the paint. Oh Mr. Chandler, you will never learn. Dwight lets Tyson gain position and pounces. Making no contact with Chandler, Dwight reaches over and blocks the entry pass, making sure that the refs were only looking at the last second. Whistle time. Dwight is that much closer to bench, and Gortat is licking his chops.
Game 1, Foul 2
Dwight Howard lets Tyson Chandler hook his left arm, preventing an entry pass from the wing.
Chandler uses this position to front Dwight, thinking he has the advantage. Unfortunately for Chandler, the bait is set. Dwight fights for position, and Chandler’s arm lock works against him, as his body is sent flying backwards like a soccer player who thinks he just got hit in the penalty box during the 88th minute of the match. And we get the whistle. Goodbye DPOY, hello high priced decoy backup.
Game 2, Foul 2
Dwight, realizing the effect his being on the floor too long has on this team, steps into action. It’s almost like there’s a phone booth underneath the basket, as Dwight lets Tyson Chandler (such an easy victim) hook his arm again. Only this time, Dwight lets it go further as Chandler pushes him under the basket. But no foul. Ryan Anderson shoots the three and Dwight does what he can. He escapes the lock and reaches for the ball as Gerald Wallace rebounds it and collapses to the floor like Greg Paulus anticipating any body contact. Flawless execution, Dwight.
Game 2, Foul 3
Orlando is up 29-18, and that’s not any good. Dwight knows what happens when this team gets leads. It’s time to put this game back on even playing ground. So he times his strike perfectly. As Carter launches a three from the right, Dwight spins around Chandler (I’m pretty sure Dwight has sold him swampland in the Everglades by now. What’s that you say? There IS swampland in the Everglades? Shows how dumb Chandler is. The resale value will be virtually nill) and into a crowd of three Bobcats waiting for the rebound; because contact with three players is easier called than one. Dwight hops up to grab the rebound as the Bobcat players barely move. Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Get the towels ready, ball boy.
Game 4, ahhhh who cares.
Dwight, silently cursing the refs for letting him block 3 shots and grab 13 rebounds, hatches his plan. And it works. DJ Augustin catches the ball on the right wing, and penetrates the lane. Dwight does what he has to do, and stands up straight as Augustin launches himself into Dwight’s chest, like Wile E. Coyote riding an ACME rocket into a brick wall of mortar and rehashed plot mechanics. Augustin crumples to the ground like my last sales meeting proposal and Dwight hears the melodic sound of the high-pitched tweet from that spit-soaked, plastic, one-instrument symphony.
“And then, I took Chandler’s milk money. Silly mortal.”
And there you have it: 5 obvious scenarios that show that Dwight is a mastermind among fledgling henchman. Any time the Magic seemed to be doing too well, any time the refs didn’t seem to be involved enough, Dwight put on his cape and flew in to save the day. Because you can only get enough of Dwight’s running hook, or a pass out to the wing and rotated around until Rashard effortlessly flicks the ball in for a gorgeous 3. Teams catch on to that. Sometimes you need to bring in the backup center and let JJ and Rhino try to save the day.
Otherwise, you end up with lackluster double-doubles from your lone All-Star player who gains well deserved accolades for playoff performance from the media and fans. And no one wants that. I would much rather watch Dwight run the floor, developing a scheme, coiling up and striking at the most inopportune time. Kobe the Black Mamba? Hardly. Dwight’s got all the venom, and when he bites the whistle blows.
Dwight. The Mastermind. The Puppeteer, making those black and white striped marionettes dance. Now if he could just teach Brandon a thing or two about shot selection.
“$10 says Bass’ shot attempts outnumber our bench’s total points.”