4:25 PM PDT, April 20, 2013
A few days ago, a cold and eerie wind blew through the international headquarters of the organization I founded on behalf of jilted Magic fans.
The organization was formed when Dwight Howard left Orlando for the bright lights, big city and multiple championships of Los Angeles. We call ourselves LOATHE (Lakers Officially Are The Hated Enemy) and our mission statement reads as follows: "The purpose of LOATHE is for all Laker-haters to band together, synergize our dislikes, objections and jealousies toward the Lakers, and hope that all of our negative energy can somehow disintegrate Dwight's goal to become bargain-basement Shaq Lite."
Our organizational mantra comes from the Japanese poet Ryunosuke Satoro, who once wrote: "Individually, we are but one drop. Together, we are an ocean."
An angry, furious, raging ocean that will hopefully suck the Lakers into our loathing chasm of doom.
All was going well throughout the season. The Lakers were a Dwightmarish dysfunctional mess. They fired their head coach Mike Brown after five games. Kobe and Dwight were feuding. Dwight looked unhappy and uninterested. And, best of all, the Lakers were losing and in jeopardy of missing the playoffs.
But then something happened last week that sent a shock wave through the headquarters of LOATHE. Kobe Bryant suffered a serious season-ending Achilles tendon injury and Dwight suddenly has been thrust into the role he's always wanted: King of Hollywood.
"Dwight's always wanted to be the focal point. Who doesn't?" says his old buddy, Magic point guard Jameer Nelson. "He wouldn't be the player he is if he didn't want to be the star. He wants the ball in his hands as much as possible and now he's going to get that chance. This is a great opportunity for Dwight."
And a Magic fan's worst Dwightmare. In a season bereft of joy where the Magic finished with the worst record in the league, one of the few simple pleasures for Orlando fans has been watching Dwight and the Lakers suffer through a lackluster season of discontent.. But now, as the Lakers ready for their playoff-opening series against the San Antonio Spurs today, Dwight has chance to be a hero.
And you know what? Don't put it past him. Nobody wanted to see Kobe get injured, but for Dwight this is the absolute best-case scenario. He doesn't have to defer anymore. He doesn't have to just be Kobe's designated rebounder. He doesn't have to mute his boisterous, fun-loving, fart-humor personality around the ultra-serious Bryant. Dwight can go back to being Dwight — one of the most dominant and dynamic players in the NBA.
Just listen to what my boy Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times wrote the other day:
"It's been only two full games since Kobe Bryant shuffled off the floor with a torn Achilles tendon … and now Dwight Howard is a player transformed. … He's been playing with an aggressive freedom rarely seen during those long winter nights of moping through Memphis. He's been playing with a resilient swagger that had somehow become lost in all the courtside clowning.
"He acts as if he's just shed a straitjacket of doubt, his movements filled with a relentless intensity, his game teeming with joy. … He acts like — with Bryant suddenly gone and the franchise's future suddenly here — the Lakers are his team."
I don't like this.
I don't like it at all.
Here in Orlando, we know better than anyone what Dwight can do with an underrated and overlooked team.
A case could be made that the Lakers — with Dwight, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash (if healthy) — are a more talented team than the one Dwight took the finals with the Magic (see Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Rafer Alston, etc.) in 2009. Former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy formulated a offense that surrounded Dwight with shooters and let the pass-happy offense flow through the big fella.
Now it's looking like Mike D'Antoni will tear that page from Stan's playbook, and Dwight has a chance to save the storied Lakers and transform himself from the NBA's biggest villain back into Superman.
This is a call to arms for all LOATHE members everywhere.
Individually, we are but one drop. Together, we are an ocean.
Let's go, Spurs!
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