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  1. We've awoken from another Dwightmare and this time Dwight Howard has emerged as a Houston Rocket. There's been an endless amount of opinions about Dwight's move in a wide variety ranging from hate all the way to strong support. And it seems like everyone from fans, to players, to front office officials, to members of the media have all chimed in about the move. I myself am a Rockets fan and also have an opinion. But with my opinions, I try to be realistic with my take on situations involving the teams I support and other subjects in the world of sports. So I'm treating this situation with the same realistic approach in an attempt to see Dwight's decision for what it is and the effect his move will have on the Rockets. I'm not shy to admit that I've criticized Dwight Howard in the past for his attitude and behavior. My first criticisms started when the first Dwightmare began in Orlando. But before he flip-flopped back and forth with Orlando, I really liked Dwight. I liked that he was a dominant NBA player who liked to cut up and have fun with his teammates. And I liked watching the Youtube videos of him pulling pranks and being a goofball outside of games when he was around his team. I wasn't a big Dwight follower and didn't always keep up with him. But at the time, I found his "fun" attitude to be acceptable because he was leading a mediocre Orlando Roster to 3 Division Titles and 1 Conference Title from 2008 to 2010. My opinions, however, began to change when he started flipping back and forth with Orlando. I really do like seeing professional athletes have fun while they do their job. But when it's time for business, I hope all athletes use a business-like approach. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. And when Dwight couldn't make a decision and drug Orlando around, that rubbed me the wrong way. I still thought he was a great basketball player (still do) and one of the top Centers in the league (definitely is, if not the best), but I didn't like how he was treating the organization and his mentality. But in that whole process, I realized that Dwight's personality was a bigger factor in his basketball profession than I had realized. And from that point on, I knew there were certain teams, players, and coaches he likely wouldn't mesh well with. Why Not L.A.? Dwight still has youthful qualities to this day. Nothing and no one said it better than Dwight himself when he talked about what he did while he made his recent decision. "I went up to Colorado and had a good time. Man, I had a good time. I really enjoyed myself. I played chess, ping-pong and just got away." Playing ping-pong, chess, and enjoying nature? Sounds like my 11-year-old cousin. But because Dwight has these qualities, they are often looked upon negatively. And because he has these qualities, I never saw him fitting in with Kobe and the Lakers. Kobe is a different animal. He seems like a dying breed. He has that old school, step on your throat when you're down, competitive nature. Every chance he gets he wants to not just beat you but dominate you. It's why people either love Kobe or hate Kobe. And this type of attitude and personality doesn't always mesh well with someone like Dwight. I'm not saying Dwight can't be a dominant player in the NBA. Obviously he has been and should continue to dominate down low. But the only way I saw Dwight fitting in L.A. was if Phil Jackson came back to coach the Lakers. Only the Zen master could have balanced all of the egos and personalities on that roster. But Jerry Buss had other plans and decided to blaze his own trail by hiring Mike D'Antoni after he prematurely fired Mike Brown. Hiring D'Antoni was one of the worst decisions Buss could have made. It was terrible due to one simple fact… You can't build the future of the franchise around a low-post center if the coach is trying to implement an up-tempo, fast break style of offense. That just won't work, nor does that make sense. Not to mention D'Antoni hasn't won anything in the NBA, ever. But on top of having problems from a basketball standpoint, Dwight also wasn't a fit from an age and mentality standpoint with the Lakers roster. Which was also a big reason why he decided to leave. In that same interview where Dwight talked about going to Colorado, he added "I want to get back to that person. That's who I am. That's the person that made me who I am and who people love. I have to get back to being that." And Dwight started doing just that by deciding to move to Houston. Kobe, Nash, and Pau are all older players who are more mature (I'd add MWP to this since he's older, but I struggle calling him mature). Dwight is a younger guy with a different mentality. The chemistry wasn't where it needed to be between him and the old guys. With that, Dwight also saw the Lakers aging/injury riddled roster as a concern. And I can see why. Kobe is 34, coming off an Achilles injury, and not getting any younger. Nash will be 40 by the time playoffs start. And both Pau and Metta World Peace are both 33 (I know MWP got amnestied, but at the time he was still on roster). Sure, Dwight could have signed a 5-year deal. But of those 5 years, how many years would that core actually be there and playing at a level high enough to contend for a title? I'd argue 2 years, maybe. So for 3 years of his contract it's fair to think he either has no clue who he will be playing with or he's playing with a very old roster. Compare that to a Rockets core where Dwight is the oldest and where he can be guaranteed to be playing with James Harden for all of his time in Houston (and hopefully Parsons if he resigns in 2015), I can see Dwight's thinking. And then add in the fact that he feels more comfortable around the younger guys, can get low-post help form McHale and Olajuwon, and he doesn't have to deal with the intense media in L.A… It makes sense why he wants to play in Houston. Of course walking away from extra money and from having Kobe Bryant playing alongside you is always a risk. But I get why Dwight decided to become a Rocket. It definitely upset Lakers fans. And I find it funny that they wanted him so badly in LA yet they talk about how terrible he is once he's gone. I think part of their frustration stems from the fact that they realize they are somewhat screwed for this upcoming season, and especially for whatever comes after that. But that's a different discussion in itself. Bottom line is the Rockets are a better fit for Dwight, and Houston should allow him to play better basketball. Remember, having success with your job is largely related to finding a working environment that works for you. The Rockets Moving Forward The Rockets obviously got better by acquiring Dwight. He's arguably the best defensive big man in the league and one of the best, if not the best, rebounders in the league as well. And since acquiring Dwight, I've heard many people saying that the Rockets are easily one of the top teams in the West, specifically speaking, top-3. Even Vegas seems to agree with that thinking. Personally, I think the Rockets can contend for a title with this roster. But I'm not ready to say they are easily one of the top teams in the West. Really, there are about 6 teams that are all strong teams in the west (Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Memphis, Golden State, & Houston). Yes the Rockets do have James Harden, and yes they now have Dwight. Parsons is also a good player on the wing. But the reality is Harden still has to improve his game to the next level. He had some bad decisions and costly turnovers in the playoffs. Dwight needs to prove he can A) stay healthy keep his attitude and mentality in check. The Rockets still need an answer at PF since right now all they have are young players in Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, and Greg Smith (Smith plays C & PF). And there needs to be some improvement at PG, whether it be by Jeremy Lin or someone they pick up (I love Patrick Beverly, but as a bench player. I haven't seen enough from him to feel good about him being a consistent starter. Though I have no problem with him starting in certain situations). And though it's not a huge deal, I'd like to see the Rockets pick up another shooting guard to come off the bench. Bottom-line, the Rockets still need to improve if they want to win a title. And we have to remember that they haven't even stepped on the floor yet… Don't get me wrong; I'm very excited about the Rockets. I've had my criticisms about Dwight in the past but there's no denying he's one of the best Centers and players in the NBA. Adding him to a Rockets roster that made it to the playoffs as one of the worst defensive teams in the league can only help the team from a basketball standpoint. And Daryl Morey deserves a ton of credit for sticking to his plan and acquiring Harden, Dwight, Parsons, etc. But realistically, the Rockets aren't the clear-cut favorites to win the West. The West is still a strong conference. But having Dwight roam the paint definitely increases their odds of getting to the finals and it's safe to say they are a "title contender" in the NBA.

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