Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 7/20/13

Remember how much Dwight Howard used to smile? That doesn’t seem to happen so much anymore.   Photo Credit: Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel It’s all I’ve heard on LA sports radio for the last month, but there’s one question I haven’t heard addressed yet: Does Dwight Howard care about winning? Now, obviously we can assume he enjoys winning more than losing, but where on his priority list would you find “Winning an NBA Title”? As far as I can tell, it would appear somewhere below “Having Fun”. We’ve all heard the suggestion that Michael Jackson was completely obsessed with childlike things because he was robbed of a childhood when his music career started at such a young age. Isn’t it possible that Dwight Howard, who began focusing intensely on basketball at age 9, is now in search of the fun times he missed out on as a kid? Think about it, he became a professional at age 19 and never experienced the college life, his father is a Georgia State Trooper, and he’s expected to be a champion. Maybe Dwight just wants to be a 20-something-year-old and enjoy his youth since he hasn’t been able to sit back and enjoy it up to this point. The NBA and its fans loved his youthful energy at events like All-Star weekend where he played dress-up and goofed off with his peers, but last season, when Kobe and the Lakers expected him to put away childish things in favor of a serious pursuit of a championship, he did the equivalent of throwing a tantrum and storming off. We tend to assume that the professional athletes we watch religiously are just as interested in wins as we are, but isn’t there a chance that a few of them just don’t care that much? If they’re in the middle of a contract, they’re getting paid millions of dollars regardless of their performance, and if they don’t make the playoffs they get even more time off between seasons. I know that to reach the professional level of sports an athlete must be an amazing competitor and work extremely hard day in and day out, but once they’ve reached the professional level, don’t you think some of them call it good enough? For example, let’s pick a few random names and guess their level of interest in winning a championship. How about John Wall, Brandon Jennings, and Josh Smith. How often do you think those guys think about winning an NBA championship? I’m sure they would all like to, but do you think any of the three are planning and actively navigating their careers toward a title? I really don’t think so. I think Josh Smith’s first priority was getting paid this offseason, which he did, and he totally deserved a solid paycheck, but I think John Wall and Brandon Jennings are more interested in what they’re doing this Friday night than in how they can improve their chances of winning an NBA championship. All that being said, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that way of thinking. Not everyone can have a mindset like Kobe and that’s part of the reason not everyone has multiple championship rings. The bottom line is, Dwight is so physically gifted that we NBA fans assume he should be helping a team to the championship game almost every year. John Wall is a fantastic basketball player, but he’s not a giant. He can play in Washington, make the crowd “ooo” and “ahh”, miss the playoffs and go home to his mansion without any shaming from the media because that’s what you expect a player like Wall to produce. Dwight Howard, on the other hand, will be scolded until he makes a title his number one priority because we all hate to see that level of God-given talented go to waste. I’m not saying that Dwight doesn’t care about winning at all, I’m just suggesting that maybe he doesn’t want to go out of his comfort zone and be bossed around by a man who’s almost 40, even if that man is one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. I want to hang out with James Harden too and I realize that even if Dwight stayed in LA, the Lakers would have been a 4th-7th seed in the West next year, but the Rockets with Dwight aren’t much better. The discussion before Dwight’s decision often revolved around a seemingly nonsensical conundrum. Half of pundits suggested that Dwight wanted to be “The Man” and Kobe was never going to let him be that in LA. The other half, citing reports that Dwight had inquired about teams’ plans to add superstars to support him, declared over and over that Dwight wanted to go somewhere that would allow for a superteam like the Heat. Neither makes sense when you consider that he already was “The Man” in Orlando, which didn’t quite work out, and in LA he had something very close to a superteam last season. Dwight doesn’t want either of these things more than he wants to have a good time and if that involves winning, that’s even better, but it’s not going to be his number one priority…not yet. -Pearce

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