When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Dwight Howard in July, pretty much everyone with even a tenuous connection to the franchise (fans, employees, and more) got excited. They had good reason, too, obviously — Howard, when engaged, is the best center in the NBA, as well as a player who could form an often unstoppable pick-and-roll partnership with fellow new addition Steve Nash. After two years of second-round exits, the Lakers look primed to challenge for a title again.
However, one prominent Laker legend isn't sold that Howard is the perfect fit for the Lakers. In a conference call to discuss his new role as lead studio analyst for Lakers TV broadcasts, James Worthy voiced some conflicted opinions about Howard. From Melissa Rohlin for the Los Angeles Times (via PBT):
"I wasn't a fan of Dwight Howard," Worthy said during a conference call Thursday morning to announce his new role as main studio analyst for Lakers games on Time Warner Cable SportsNet. Worthy said that he likes players who put their head down and do their job. He lamented that with Howard, "there was too much conversation."
"Who said this, I don't like this coach. To me, that's nonsense," Worthy said. "Your job is to come in and play and deal with the situation that's there."
Worthy also greatly disapproved of Howard's reticence to play for the Lakers. "I was a little bit taken back. I think I heard him say ... if the Lakers drafted him, he wouldn't take it," Worthy said. "I knew that was gibberish."
Worthy, however, made it clear that now that Howard is on the Lakers, he welcomes him to the team. He just thinks that the superstar with a larger-than-life personality needs a minor attitude adjustment. "This is not Orlando," he said.
Worthy has a good point — in fact, it's similar to the thrust of the column that Yahoo!'s own Adrian Wojnarowski wrote after the trade went down. Now that Howard is back in contention, he needs to put the antics aside and get serious. That's a smart point, no matter if you're a Lakers legend or not.
What makes it so bizarre to hear, though, is that the immediate reaction in Los Angeles was so overwhelming positive. Worthy's former teammate Magic Johnson, for instance, began to talk up the Lakers' title hopes within a matter of hours, and many Lakers fans followed suit. No one can criticize them for their excitement — Howard is really, really good, after all — but there was also a noticeable lack of perspective regarding what it takes to win in reality vs. on paper. The mere fact that Worthy didn't play cheerleader is notable, even though he's really just carrying out his analyst role responsibly.
With any luck, Worthy's comments will usher in a fresh period of Lakers-related realism rather than serve as a shocking example of a former legend criticizing a current star. Because, in the end, everything Worthy said here makes sense. Here's hoping that Howard takes it to heart.
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