By Jillian Kushner (@jilliankushner)
It’s official: Dwight Howard is back. 10 games into the 2016 season, Howard is averaging a double-double. On his new team, Howard has helped lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 9-2 record, tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the best in the East. Howard has averaged a double-double every year of his career, so why are we saying he is back?
It appears everyone loves to hate Dwight Howard. There seems to be no reason behind the hate other than the fact he is an easy target. He is easy to blame for his team’s faults. The Orlando Magic couldn’t win a championship, it’s Howard’s fault. No one blames it on the coaching staff or the lack of talent on the team. In Los Angeles, the Lakers’ 45-37 season was all Howard’s fault. Looking back now, it’s pretty clear that wasn’t the case, and many Lakers’ fans would love a winning season and a playoff berth. In Houston, the Rockets’ inability to live up to the hype was Howard’s fault as well. It is easy to ignore the new information that James Harden worked with the coaching staff to limit Howard’s minutes. Howard is simply an easy target; he is easy to dislike.
But now, whether you hate him or love him, you can’t deny that he is back at the top of his game. In his 13th season in the NBA, Howard is back home in Atlanta with a team that works perfectly with him. The Hawks have quietly climbed to the top of the NBA with one of the best records in the league. The Hawks also handed the Cavs their first loss of the season, which got lost in all the election hoopla.
The reason Howard is able to thrive in Atlanta is because he is allowed to be a star. He was so successful in Orlando because he was the star, it was his team. When he went to LA, they already had their star. When he went to Houston, they, too, already had their star. Atlanta has some great players, but none of them are the Kobe-like or Harden-like stars. This team works with Howard and lets him shine.
While the season is still very young, Howard has shown some sparks of Orlando Howard. He is averaging 14.8 points per game, 12.3 rebounds per game, 1.4 steals per game, his highest average since 2011, and 1.7 blocks per game. At 6’11 and 265 lbs., it is almost mind-blowing that Houston would want to limit his minutes. Howard posted video after video in the offseason showing clear improvement, which has definitely paid off so far this season.
Howard’s biggest issue has been his body. At 30, Howard has had various knee injuries as well as a back injury that required surgery. When he’s healthy, Howard is a dominant force who is nearly impossible to hold back.
He has transformed this Hawk’s team into a playoff team. I know, it’s only November, but this is just the beginning of Howard’s Hawks. He is back to ballin’ and staying true to Atlanta. Superman is back.