Will the Miami Heat Finally Win An NBA Title?
By Peter Kerasotis // June 9, 2012
By design, postseasons answer questions. And that’s exactly what this NBA postseason has done. It has answered questions.
Were the Oklahoma City Thunder too young and inexperienced to make the NBA Finals? Answer: No.
Are the Boston Celtics too old and grizzled to make it to the NBA Finals? Answer: Due Saturday night.
Will the Miami Heat finally win an NBA title? Answer: Coming soon.
Yeah, postseasons take question marks and turn them into exclamation points. And by the end of this month, the biggest exclamation point of all will attach itself to one of the three aforementioned teams.
One of them will be the 2012 NBA champs!
Back here in Central Florida, the outworking of this postseason just might be erasing some question marks for one certain Orlando Magic player. That, of course, would be Dwight Howard.
But is he listening? Is he paying attention? Is he taking notes?
Dwight Howard left almost two months ago for the Left Coast, where word is he’s living with one of his Baby Mamas in Marina Del Rey while ostensibly rehabbing his back, which saw a herniated disk repaired via minor outpatient surgery.
His blogs have disappeared from his web site. An addictive twitterer, he hasn’t tweeted since April 20.
In the interim, the Magic complied with Howard’s wishes by firing head coach Stan Van Gundy and throwing in the head of general manager Otis Smith for extra credit.
So they, too, have question marks that need exclamation points – if not just a simple period. Who will be the next GM? The next head coach? Will Howard stay or go?
This much is certain. The Magic will not go through another season like the one that’s fresh in their rearview mirror. If Howard doesn’t re-up on his contract, then the franchise has said they’ll trade him this summer.
Which brings us back to the biggest question mark in all of this, which is Dwight Howard.
He’s been all over the map this year – figuratively and, in many ways, literally.
Howard evidently told the Magic that one of the teams he’d agree to go to in a trade was the Los Angeles Lakers, yet privately he apparently tells people he doesn’t want to be perceived as following Shaquille O’Neal’s footsteps.
Howard says he wants to win, yet he put the Nets, who are moving to Brooklyn this upcoming season, at the top of his list of teams he wants to go to. The Nets, of course, are habitual losers. Since joining the NBA as the New York Nets in 1976, some 36 seasons ago, they’ve only had 12 winning seasons. But the New York/New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets have something very important to Dwight, something similar to Los Angeles. They are situated in a big, glamour city market.
Howard tells ESPN he’d like to play with Derrick Rose in Chicago, another big-market city, but then tells AOL Sporting News that he wouldn’t want to play for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
Howard tells the Magic before the season that he wants out, then criticizes his teammates during the season for not being all in, and then backs off his trade demand just hours before the deadline.
If you are, imagine what it must be like inside Dwight Howard’s head.
This is where the current NBA postseason should be able to help him.
But is he listening? Is he paying attention? Is he taking notes?
What should Howard have learned from the San Antonio Spurs this postseason? Let’s rewind the calendar back to the 2000 offseason. Much like the Miami Heat two years ago, the Magic had cleared enough cap room to sign the two biggest free agents – Grant Hill and Tim Duncan. The plan was to bring them onto a roster that already had superstar Tracy McGrady and all but rubber stamp multiple championships.
But Tim Duncan balked, deciding to stay loyal and stay in San Antonio. People thought Duncan was crazy. Why wouldn’t he want to complete a trinity of superstars in Orlando? Why would he want to stay in a small market like San Antonio?
At the time, Duncan talked of both loyalty and comfort, two things Dwight Howard spoke of when he rescinded his trade demands last March, when he opted to stay in Orlando through the remainder of the 2011-12 season.
The difference, apparently, is that Duncan meant it. And he didn’t have his athletic apparel company go out and manufacture t-shirts emblazoned with the word “LOYALTY” in a crass, commercialized attempt to prove it, as Howard did.
And what happened since 2000? Grant Hill has never won an NBA title, though his former team, the Detroit Pistons, went on to win one without him. And since 2000, Tim Duncan has won four NBA titles with the Spurs and three times he was named the series’ MVP. We also just saw the Spurs win 20 straight games from the end of the regular season all the way to the Western Conference Finals, before Oklahoma City eliminated them.
The Magic, meanwhile, the team Duncan decided not to go to, have never won an NBA Finals and were bounced out of this postseason in the first round.
What about Oklahoma City? What can Dwight learn from what’s going on there?
Howard wants to go to a glamour city, but it’s the Thunder who right now are the NBA’s darlings, the best young team in the league that’s on the verge of starting a dynasty. I was in Oklahoma City a couple of weeks ago, just a week after I spent some time in Los Angeles. It’s a nice city, but it’s no L.A. But guess what, neither L.A. team – the Lakers or the Clippers – made it to the Western Conference Finals, much less the NBA Finals, where the Thunder now find themselves. For that matter, neither New York-area team advanced to a conference finals either.
Point is, glamour only goes so far. Los Angeles and New York City might have style, but right now Oklahoma City has more substance along with one of the NBA’s great young players in Kevin Durant, who is already on his way to becoming an endorsement darling.
Hopefully, Howard sees that he doesn’t need to be in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago to be all the he wants to be. Tim Duncan in San Antonio and now Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City prove that.
And what about the Miami Heat?
Hopefully, what Dwight Howard is seeing there is that even though LeBron James is the league’s best player, and even though he had a virtuoso – if not iconic – performance in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, his public image is in the toilet.
Sort of like where Dwight Howard’s currently is.
The grass isn’t always greener, and the path of least resistance doesn’t always get you to your destination.
There evidently have been a lot of questions swirling around Dwight Howard as he continues to hole himself up in the Los Angeles area.
Hopefully, these NBA playoffs are answering them for him. Hopefully he’s listening, paying attention and taking notes.
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