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Dwight Howard Key to Orlando’s 2011 Hopes

As goes Dwight Howard, so go the Orlando Magic. As goes Dwight Howard, so go the Orlando Magic.

It’s going to be a year of big challenges for the Orlando Magic. To start with, their cross-state rivals, the Miami Heat, are loaded with unprecedented superstar talent in Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lebron James. Meanwhile, up north, the veterans on the Boston Celtics have designs on a return to the NBA championships, and neither Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, or Paul Pierce are about to pass the torch despite being in the twilights of their respective careers. But as long as the Magic have Dwight Howard powering them, anything is possible.

Howard may be the best big man in the league right now, and that’s a role that can never be underestimated. We’ve seen how Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, and David Robinson were able to play key roles in leading their teams to championships.

However, in each of the above cases, the supporting casts of the Lakers, Rockets, and Spurs were probably more talented than what Howard is working with. Still, the 2010-11 Magic are no slouches. But the whole team should look at last year’s post-season breakdown as a wake up call.

In particular, Howard will need to mature into a clutch player if he’s ever going to get Orlando over the hump. His career highlights are numerous, but he must show up every night and be a leader, especially in a stacked Eastern Conference, if he’s going to add the biggest accolade of all – a championship ring.

Among the many achievements in Howard’s career are three selections to the All-NBA First Team, as well as being named NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice. He gained a boost to his fame in 2008 when he won the slam-dunk contest at the All-Star game, memorably sporting a Superman cape for one of his attempts. The slam-dunk contest had once been one of the league’s most popular events, but fans had seemed to lose interest for a few years leading up to Howard’s charismatic performance, which served to rejuvenate the event.

Now Dwight Howard needs to bring that charisma to his team’s quest for a title. Teammates like Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson, and Rashard Lewis will contribute, but everyone looks to the star, the man front and center. As Dwight Howard goes, so go the Magic. Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and the rest of the Miami Heat are going to make it tough on Orlando, but if there was ever a year for the Magic, this is it. They have a deep bench, and their veterans are still contributing. It’s just a matter of harnessing their potential and stepping up when it counts most.

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Last modified on Monday, 12 November 2012 07:19

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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