Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard and the National Media

You can see it every time the Houston Rockets are playing on TNT. You can see it in every snarky ESPN.com article that J.A. Adande puts out. And at this point, I’m pretty sure it might be a pre-requisite to ever be hired by Grantland.com.

Chances are if you’re from Houston, you know what I’m talking about.

For some unknown reason(s), it always seems like Dwight Howard never gets a fair shake in the media outside of H-Town. They call him immature and say that his game has slipped. That he’s no longer the player he used to be. That he can’t win a title because he’s too busy farting during practice. Chief among them, is that he just doesn’t care about winning.

But why?

Last season, everyone knew that Howard was playing hurt. Every radio host knew that Howard’s relationship with Kobe Bryant and Mike D’Antoni was strained. And everyone (sans Lakers fans) agreed that if Dwight Howard wanted to prove that it was all about basketball and winning, he should choose Houston in free agency because that was his best shot.

And the sad thing is he proved that the pundits were right.

Howard is happier in Houston. He’s taken a team that won 45 games last season and has given them a realistic chance at matching (and/or surpassing) the franchise record for total wins in his first season. But for reasons unknown, the national media doesn’t care about wins added anymore. They don’t care that he took $30 million less to play in a new city. Or, that the team he left has completely fallen apart since last year and is openly tanking for the #1 draft pick.

That doesn’t matter to them because the bias still exists.

Mar 16, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) dunks the ball against the Miami Heat during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Even though, if it were anyone else, they would have championed the player that sacrificed money for a better shot at a ring. Or brushed it under-the-carpet if it was a star point guard. Or even looked the other way when a player “Chris Brown’d” his girlfriend (allegedly). But I can tell you this, if Howard would have accepted the extra money from Los Angeles; he would have been chastised even worse if he stayed on that 22-46 Lakers team. I don’t hear any negative commentary about former champion and NBA All-Star Pau Gasol this season?

Where’s the criticism and animosity for them?

Recently, Bill Simmons called-out Dwight Howard on the ABC/ESPN pre-game show “NBA Countdown” and on his website for not being able to step up in the games at Oklahoma City and Chicago. However, he completely forgot to mention the Miami Heat game where Howard finished with a 21/14/5/2 game. Or, that he had 17 points and 12 rebounds while adding three blocks in the extremely crucial game against Portland a few nights before that. Nowhere did he mention that Howard has been out since those games with an ankle cyst and managed to play through the pain with no excuses.

So what do we know we have?

An All-Star, who plays through pain, took less money, added more wins to his new team; all-the-while leaving his former team in the lottery. It certainly seems like he made the right decision to me. The Rockets have the same players as last year, only adding Howard (and Jordan Hamilton), and they’re a half-game away from being the fifth best team in the entire league, record-wise.

Efficiency-wise, the Rockets are 3rd in the league on offense. Defensively, they’re 10th. Have you seen the Rockets’ perimeter defense??? I’m positive that adding a three time Defensive Player of the Year and the league leader in FG% this season (min. 650 attempts) only increased those numbers. But yet, here’s ESPN Insider Bradford Doolittle giving Joakim Noah the “NBA’s Best Center” crown even though the Bulls are 8.5 games behind the Rockets and Red94.net’s Michael Pina absolutely destroys that argument; including this little side-by-side comparison of the two.

It’s time for Charles Barkley and Shaq to stop asking Howard to post-up more; he’s the third highest scoring center in the league and happens to be the most efficient at it. And it’s time for the entire Grantland staff to stop taking shots at him, because he’s taken a playoff team and made them better. And finally, it’s time the national media stop bashing Dwight Howard because of personal vendettas and agree that, on-the-court, he’s still the best Center in the league.

Or at least that’s what the stats say…

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