Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard earned his league-leading 12th technical foul in Thursday night's 112-103 victory against the New York Knicks, bringing him within four technicals of drawing a league-mandated, one-game suspension. And for every two technicals he picks up after his 16th, he will have to sit an additional game. Orlando is but 33 games into its season, and its franchise player/MVP candidate is perilously close to missing at least one game for something utterly preventable.
Less than two minutes into the game against the Knicks, Howard fumbled a ball out of bounds and said something to warrant a technical call. After the game, coach Stan Van Gundy said Howard was upset at himself and yelled "Damn!" in frustration. He also reiterated his stance that NBA officials "are looking to see [Howard's] reaction [after they make a call against him]", a comment sure to draw a fine from the league.
And then Van Gundy went further.
"Other guys get away with this stuff [....] I guess 'damn' is a technical and 'bull----' is OK, based on what I saw tonight."
Moments later, in Orlando's locker room, Howard offered his take: "It's tough. You just gotta play through it." He managed to avoid much further substantial commentary on the issue by respectfully reminding the media they watch the games as well and can form their own opinions about them.
Regardless of why Howard has the officials' attention, or whether they target him unfairly, the fact remains that Howard needs to rein in the histrionics that have him racking up the technicals at such a rapid rate. Howard is averaging one technical per every 91.3 minutes played, a staggering number. However, he's well of Rasheed Wallace's record-setting 2000/01 pace, when the combustible veteran drew 41 technical fouls in 2940 minutes, or one every 71.7 minutes.
Gilbert Arenas, a new teammate of Howard's, offered an interesting assessment of Howard's attitude with the officials.
"I think sometimes he looks to get the techs but he plays like he's not looking to get the techs," said Arenas with a laugh. He composed himself and then added, "but like I told him, he has 12, and I think four more, that's when we're going to start having problems. Because that's when it starts affecting the team."
Arenas said Howard "is always gonna say something" after he picks up a "frustration foul," usually at the offensive end. He's tried to tell Howard to stop pushing off opponents with one hand once he has two feet in the paint. Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari, among the many players in the league who can't possibly hope to guard Howard one-on-one, drew two such push-off fouls on Howard under the rim when Howard needlessly shoved him.
Van Gundy acknowledged the seriousness of Howard's technical-foul situation, but nonetheless put the onus on Howard to correct the problem. "He knows what's at stake," Van Gundy said. "It's not something that's going to cause me to lose sleep. I think that's a situation he's going to have to handle [....] I'm going to worry about our defense and getting us more organized offensively and things like that."