Friday, August 10, 2012

Dwight Howard's Decision to Leave Orlando Less Honorable than LeBron's Decision to Leave Cleveland

By Adam Maher

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Now that Dwight Howard has finally left the Sunshine State for the Golden State, with a pitchfork flailing and torch bearing mob in his wake, the question can finally be answered: Dwight Howard's decision was more painful for NBA fans to experience than LeBron James's decision.

New nickname alert! Plight Howard.

People chastised King James for his decision to take his talents to South Beach, claiming he was a deserter, a defector, a traitor, but the headlines rarely spoke of the fact that he left $480,000 (25% of his Tuesday night ESPN airtime's advertising profits) to Boys & Girls Clubs in Akron, Ohio and surrounding cities.

Compare that to Dwight Howard's leave: Instead of attending the last series of Dwight Howard ProCamps in Orlando, for which each participant's family paid $199 per week, D-wight sent out an email to the families, saying he had to stay in Southern California to heal his back, and wouldn't make it. Days later, Howard would appear at a Dodgers game.

Participants who choose to not attend the camps will get full refunds, officials at ProCamps say. Kids who still go will receive tickets to an Orlando Magic game this season free of charge and one Adidas gift bag. Obviously, neither expense is coming out of Dwight's pockets.

I remember when I was a youngin' I attended a Nets/Knicks ProCamp in Northern New Jersey. It was around the time when NFL Blitz 2000 came out. I remember that only because video games at the time were more fun than the camp, which was attended only by coaches and no players due to a lockout. (Staff had to cover a vending machine in the gym lobby with white paper because a player was on the cover so coaches wouldn't see it.) The highlights of the camp for me were when the at-the-time Knicks head coach, Jeff Van Gundy, came and spoke to us. I don't remember a word he said, I think I fell asleep, but it was cool. Another highlight was during a trivia session, when a Nets coach asked, "Who is the ugliest player on the Nets?" Because he was my favorite player, my hand shot up quicker than Samwell Tarly in a Lord Baelish brothel - not that Fat Sam ever made it to one...

"Sam Cassell!"

"Correct!" the coach said.

If snooze-fest coaching lectures and mean-spirited trivia games are the best ideas that the NBA has to offer when players don't attend its camps, I'd say to all the Orlando families: Ditch the camp and buy your kid a Wii! Pronto!

Cassell pictured above middle, with John Calipari and the legendary Kendall Gill who I once witnessed air ball a free throw from court side seats. The original KG still got it in that night, I'm sure. Lord Baelish, pictured below, always gets it in for his patrons. For himself, well, now that Eddard Stark has been parished an entire season, perhaps Lady Catelyn will finally set his love on fire...

I've digressed, but you can imagine how lame this week's Orlando ProCamps will be without Dwight. Not to mention the fact that Sam Cassell and Kendall Gill's combined abilities to inspire (kids - adults, a different story) are minuscule compared to Dwight Howard's.

But it gets worse. Let's consider the last season both LeBron and Dwight spent in their respective Draft towns: Howard's last year in Orlando was about as ugly a season as any player in the NBA has ever had, as far as marketing goes. Ticket sales were down, wins were down, morale was down, and the head coach (and general manager) got run out of town - ironically for this story, that head coach was none other than Jeff Van Gundy's older (and much fatter) brother, Stan. Compare it to LeBron's last season in Cleveland, where LeBron earned MVP and the Cavs finished first place in the Eastern Conference regular season standings.

I'm not a hater. I'm a huge fan of Dwight on the court. I think the Lakers have a legitimate shot at a title this year with his addition. And I'll never speak out against someone whose presence will give Kobe Bryant a chance to reach his dream of obtaining six NBA championships, but one thing is for sure, Dwight Howard has taken LeBron James' place as the most hated man in the NBA.

You'll have to excuse all the Game of Thrones references. I've been spending the offseason catching up on the George R.R. Martin original series. I'm about halfway through the first book. Each book contains one season of the HBO hit show. Funny fact: Martin is still alive and lives in Bayonne, NJ.

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