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Dwight Howard's Technical Fouls: An Analysis

At one point during the Orlando Magic's first preseason game this year, an official whistled Magic center Dwight Howard for a personal foul. Howard frowned, but put his hands behind his back and held them there, demonstrating his displeasure with the call without the sort of theatricality that may have earned him a technical foul under the league's new "Respect for the Game" initiative. The gesture spoke volumes about his attitude and approach to the season. Or so we thought, anyway.

Through 20 games this season, Howard has accrued six technical fouls, which ties the Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony and Charlotte Bobcats' Stephen Jackson for the league lead, at least as of Sunday, which doesn't even account for the two technials the league rescinded. NBA players draw a one-game suspension upon reaching his 16th technical, so the long-term potential for his technical habit to hurt the team is clear. At his current rates of one technical every 111 minutes, and 35 minutes played per game, Howard will receive his 16th technical foul sometime during the Magic's game against the L.A. Clippers on February 8th, which would in turn cause him to sit the following night as Orlando visits the Philadelphia 76ers.

But on an individual level, I wanted to know what impact Howard's technicals have on the games in which they're called. Here's a list of every technical for which the referees have whistled him this season, including the two the league rescinded:

Date / Opponent Time / Quarter Magic Score Opp. Score Preceding Event
29 Oct. /
@ Miami Heat
0:00 /
24 24 Called between quarters
3 Nov. /
vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
10:04 /
4 5 Howard offensive foul
8 Nov. /
vs. Atlanta Hawks
7:29 /
60 55 Howard made jump shot
10 Nov. /
vs. Utah Jazz
8:01 /
76 75 Howard offensive foul
12 Nov. /
vs. Toronto Raptors
6:33 /
70 68 Howard offensive foul
20 Nov. /
@ Indiana Pacers
4:05 /
19 17 Howard loose-ball foul
22 Nov. /
@ San Antonio Spurs
5:37 /
15 15 Howard made putback layup
27 Nov. /
@ Washington Wizards
10:53 /
77 75 Howard missed jump shot

Not a lot of surprises here. Howard tends to act up when he's called for offensive fouls or when he feels like an opponent fouled him.

On some level, one might be tempted to really paint Howard in a bad light based on these data. Orlando is 14-5 with Howard in the lineup, but just 4-4 when he gets rung up for a technical, meaning they're 10-1 when Howard plays technical-free. But I think that approach is a bit too reductive. With the exception of the first two entries on this list--a 26-point loss and 42-point win, respectively--the games in which Dwight's received a technical were pretty close throughout, and none of the technicals came with the Magic winning by more than five or losing by more than one.

It's tough to argue, in other words, that one or more of Howard's technicals cost Orlando a game just yet. In the grand scheme of the Magic's season so far, the technicals have cost the Magic seven points, or one every three games. That's all.

The cost to Howard isn't too great either. Per the league's penalty schedule, Howard's had to pay $13,000 in fines for those technicals this season, less than one percent of his $16.6 million NBA salary, which doesn't account for his multiple endorsements.

I don't intend to trivialize Howard's technical foul trouble so far this season. The potential exists for him to blow his stack at a real inopportune time and send Orlando to a loss, or for a suspension to keep him out of action against a tough opponent such as the Boston Celtics or L.A. Lakers. But when considering the other issues the Magic may have to contend with in the 61 games ahead of them, this one doesn't loom too large.

That point is especially clear given how Howard has improved his behavior lately. He's picked up only three technicals in his last 414:22 of court time. Moreover, he's on a streak of 124:43 without a technical, which is very nearly his best of the season.

But that's just how I feel. Based on some comments on the OPP Facebook page--please consider supporting us with a "like," if you haven't already, by the way--Howard's technical fouls really do bother Magic fans. So I've attached a poll to this post to gauge the community's opinion on this issue. Please vote below.