Dwight Howard is well known for his smile, defense (he is the two-time Defensive Player of the Year), awkward post game, blocked shots, and poor free throw shooting. When the NBA resumes, if it ever does, Howard could very well have a new description to add to that list: most coveted almost free agent since that Carmelo Anthony character. First thing is first, though. He wants to shore up a rock part of his game. This summer he has been working on his free throw shooting with a new coach in an attempt to limit the amount of hack-a-Dwight he will see in games. From an interview in Esquire Magazine (via TrueHoop):
The only way my game is going to free up is if I start shooting 80 per-cent or better from the line. That’s going to be my main area of concern this year, getting my free throws better. I met the best shooting coach I could ever find — I’ve seen him make 200 free throws in a row with his eyes closed, all net, no rim, nothing. He’s all science, man — he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.
200 free throws in a row? That is just silly. It is like a robot shooting free throws. The longest made free throw streak in the NBA belongs to Michael Williams, of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who made 97 consecutive free throws from 1993-2003. Obviously, he did not go the line very much. Howard attempted 916 free throws last season and connected on 546 for a percentage of 59.6. So, yes, Howard needs to improve that aspect of his game dramatically but shooting free throws in a gym is far different than an in-game situation. If he does, then Orlando Magic fans will have even more reason to love their lone superstar. Well, for a time at least, that is.
It seems that Howard feels that he is meant to do bigger and better things in life. To do those things it would behoove him to be in a location that was not in swampy central Florida. There is only so much one man, who is not named Disney, can do in Orlando anyway. More from Howard’s interview:
There’s more you can do in a bigger place. I’m stuck in a tough position because I feel like right now, where I’m at, I’ve done so much. And I just don’t know what else I can do. I can’t live for everybody else. I don’t know what decision I’m gonna make as of right now. It’s been crazy. Everybody wants me to come here, come play here, come to our team, do this. It’s a great feeling, though, to be wanted.The toughest part for me is the city — the people. They’ve got burgers named after me in Orlando, they’ve got a Web site saying, “Please stay.” I love the people in the city. I’ve literally sat on the bench with a towel on my head crying, because I feel the passion in the stands. I just think about what’s going to be best for what I want to accomplish in my life. And I don’t want that door to close on me, wherever that door is. I don’t want it to close.
It certainly sounds like he is about to close the door on his time with the Magic, no reading between the lines necessary. Sure he will be sad about leaving. Who would not want to eat a burger named after themselves? However, when the time comes, there are bigger cities out there with greater planking opportunities. Until that time comes, Howard will continue to tout the union’s line during the lockout and hold out for the best deal possible.
It is important for all Magic fans to understand that the lockout and whether Howard stays in Orlando or not is all predicated on money. “I don’t want my money cut short,” Howard stated about the lockout, but the same can be said about playing for the Magic. Last season, the Magic surrounded Howard with the bloated salaries of Gilbert Arenas, who earns more than Howard, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu. In return the team did not make it past the first round of the playoffs. It seems as though not only was his money cut short, but so was his season. If that happens again, it is almost a certainty that he will leave, however, he will not be doing so in an hour-long televised event.