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Gazzolo Column: Careful what you wish for, Houston

Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 2:48 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Houston, he is now your problem.

Indecision 2013 finally came to an end when Dwight Howard made up his mind — for now.

The usually unhappy drama king of the NBA will be holding court next year in … wait for it … Houston.

Collectively, the nation can now breath easy. Our national Dwightmare is over.

Based on all the coverage you would think the world would have turned on its axis just by the news leaking out.

Or at the very least Los Angeles would have drifted out into the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Instead, the republic is safe and the sun still rose in the East.

Howard simply made a decision far too many were worried about, or cared about.

It was never that big of a deal.

Overhyped as the next big-man superstar, Howard used all the marketing skills possible to make himself important.

Los Angeles Lakers fans and the once-proud franchise became obsessed with keeping Howard in La la land. They begged the big man to stay, offering just about everything but the one thing that might have kept him, a new head coach.

Kobe Bryant even told Howard he would show him how to become a champion. Quit laughing Shaq.

While that was likely the final straw that re-broke Howard’s aching back, it does show the clash of egos that was taking place all last season in the Lakers locker room.

Howard believes he knows what it takes to win. Bryant knows the truth, that he doesn’t.

Water and oil remain a better mix than these two.

So Howard left town just a few years after Bryant booted Shaquille O’Neal.

Kobe needs to learn to play nice if he wants another ring.

As for Howard, whose three-summer tour of NBA drop zones is now over, he comes out of all this still the same.

He has complained his way out of Orlando and whined his way out of Los Angeles.

Now, he is stuck in Houston. Or is it Houston that is stuck with him?

On paper it looks like a perfect match. Howard should be the missing piece in the Rockets’ rise to power. Should be.

Then again, he should have been the last piece in the Lakers’ championship puzzle instead of becoming the lost link in a chain to nowhere.

I believe the biggest of winners might just be the Lakers themselves. No longer do they have to babysit Howard and they are free to go free-agent hunting when the big names come calling next summer.

LeBron James, another NBA star who knows a thing or two about making decisions last way too long, is on their short list already.

The Lakers, in the end, got off easy. They only had to survive one year of this drama that wasn’t even fit for Hollywood. Orlando had to put up with it for a few more years than that.

Maybe Howard just doesn’t like the whole Disney thing. After all, he does call himself Superman not Prince Charming.

Either way, he has decided to call Houston his new home when it comes to all things basketball.

Yao Ming is rolling over in his leg cast as we speak.

The city that gave us the Dream, the Twin Towers and Moses has parted the seas so Howard can come be a part of what some believe is the next great thing in the NBA.

Those “some” are going to be disappointed.

The Rockets are of the opinion that Howard is going to be the centerpiece for the next great pro basketball team. Not likely.

All Howard has shown us over the years is that he is the centerpiece for drama, disappointment, and in the end, confusion.

One could argue that the Rockets are second only to the Lakers when it comes to playing host to great centers.

Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon and even Ralph Sampson and Yao himself have had solid runs in the post for the Rockets. Now it is Howard who will patrol the paint.

However, he brings more questions to town than answers.

How good Howard is was never the issue. How hard Howard is willing to work to become better is.

That is where the game seems to pass him by.

Howard is more hip-hop than hustle, more style than substance and clearly more posh than perspiration.

Talented and confused Howard has been proclaimed the best center in the NBA, but more often than not he is outworked by those less talented.

It seems that Howard more than anything else wants to be a star, wants to be loved by the public, wants to be the face of the franchise. Then, when it got to the big stage of all, he crumbled in the spotlight of Los Angeles.

Despite all his bravado, Howard would rather be a big fish in a small pond. L.A. was an ocean he never could swim in.

Now he wants to again be loved. That’s not easy for big men.

Shaq used to say, “Nobody roots for Goliath,” and he is right.

It is hard to be considered the underdog when you proclaim yourself Superman.

Now he has landed in Houston, bringing his poor free-throw-shooting and pouting behavior along for the ride.

If Howard really wants to show the world he is ready to become a leader he must show us on the court and in the Rockets locker room. It is there where he will be judged now.

And yes, after leaving the Lakers and their 18 championship banners behind, Howard must also prove to us he is a winner.

Anything less than a title no longer cuts it.

Not even in Houston.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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