Lakers Nation got their first glimpse into the Dwight Howard era as D12 kicked off his purple and gold tour with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks in 33 minutes.
The highly anticipated arrival of Dwight Howard lived up to, and probably even exceeded, the loftiest of preseason expectations of any Lakers fanatico as he recorded his first triple double for the storied franchise.
Much to the chagrin of the experts, Howard recorded 33 minutes of playing time and not the prognosticated 10 or so minutes that would be expected of most players recovering from back surgeries.
In the span on those minutes, Howard looked as dominating as promised. The imposing force of Dwight had an even bigger impact than the box score would suggest. Time and time again, attacking foes were forced to redirect their bodies into unfavorable positions after penetrating when faced with the reality of a golden behemoth guarding the basket.
Not since Shaq have the Lakers sported such a dominating force in the paint. Even Kobe Bryant’s larger than life persona dwindled slightly in the presence of this smiling gargantuan. A smile that has led many to criticize the multi-defensive player of the year as someone who doesn’t take winning a championship as maniacally as Kobe does, but a smile that also gets put away when it matters. Howard showed last night, in a dominating fashion, why it doesn’t matter that his smile is goofy—the big man can flat out control and affect a game, even without scoring.
Oh yeah, there was also Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace rounding out one of the top starting units in the league.
While most people will rightfully dwell on the facilitating impact that Nash will have on the Lakers, we should take note of the potentially devastating tandem of Pau-to-Howard. You noticed it right away last night: a super intelligent big man named Pau will certainly find an open Dwight Howard at the hoop for easy baskets.
The ever under-appreciated Pau Gasol once again appears to be the forgotten piece in a highly lauded Lakers squad. I like to think that if Pau were shorter and less lanky, he probably would have played point-guard. He has excellent court vision and is incredibly unselfish, always celebrating a team victory over personal stats. The shadow cast by Dwight’s youth, power, and smile will undoubtedly overpower the presence of one of the best offensive big men in the game.
Therein lies the potential greatness of this reloaded Lakers squad as defenses will be forced to pick their poison: Nash, Kobe, Pau or Dwight. A yellow hydra whose heads are Hall-of-Fame.
But even mythical monsters have flaws. As impressive as the starting squad may be, they are balanced out by an offensively inept bench capable of giving up big leads. Either the offensive firepower of the starting unit will be forced to create huge leads, or the starters will see a lot more playing time that in the long run may affect them—especially come playoff time.
For now, an 0-6 preseason record hovers over this new Laker team like a stain on an overpriced, quality shirt. With so much experience at hand, I doubt it will take them as long to gel as it did the Miami Heat. One thing is certain: I’m very happy to once again watch the Lakers play. It had been a long time since I could put up with the likes of Bynum’s bratty face accompanied by Stu Lantz’s ridiculous statements. At least this time Stu’s hyperbole won’t seem so outlandish, even by his standards.
It’s an exciting time to be an NBA fan in L.A. Now, if we could only get the whole TWC & DTV deals ironed out.
Here’s looking at you, Dwight!