It's rare to see a member of the national media defend Dwight Howard's good name, but that's exactly what my SB Nation colleague Tom Ziller, writing for NBA FanHouse, did today in his joint Orlando Magic preview with Bethlehem Shoals. "This is the best big man in the game today," Ziller says, "an heir to Hakeem [Olajuwon] and [Tim] Duncan in terms of impact on a game, any game." This point, about the Boston Celtics' purported containment of Howard, also stood out:
Boston has allegedly solved Dwight, right? Howard has 13 games against the Celtics in the playoffs, all in the past two postseasons. In those games, he is averaging 19 points on 65 percent shooting, with 14 rebounds and nearly three blocks a game. Orlando is 6-7 in those games.
Howard can get his, to a reasonable degree, against Boston. The issue is that the Celtics limit his teammates' production, which is no fault of Howard's. Ziller raises that point again in his conclusion, saying, "Relying on Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis -- which the Magic absolutely do in the postseason -- is always tricky, and that's what worries me. That said, no one in the league can handle Howard."
Shoals is a bit less bullish on the Magic, though he is squarely on the "FREE BRANDON BASS" bandwagon. He writes, "I seriously wonder if 2009 wasn't their peak," while also allowing for the possibility that he may be wrong. His final verdict about Orlando's viability as title contenders? "Ask me later and then make fun of me."