Two minutes into Thursday’s win over the Knicks, Dwight Howard was upset at himself and yelled, “Damn.” Apparently that was enough to gain the referee’s ire and award him a technical foul. Whether that should be enough is irrelevant. It was and Dwight Howard got one step closer to earning that one game suspension that will come with his 16th technical foul.
With Orlando’s front court depleted after the trade, there is going to be one off-court story line the Magic will need to track. And it is one fans are certainly tracking too.
Dwight Howard’s ever-continuing drama with the referees is starting to reach a critical point where it could start costing the Magic games. Howard has 12 technical fouls on his record through 33 games. That is almost a technical foul every three games — and he has already had two rescinded by the league.
“It’s tough. I don’t know. I’ve just got to try to play through it and try not to let it affect the way I play,” Howard said after Thursday’s game. “But it is very frustrating. I’ve just got to find ways to play through it.”
Howard has never picked up two technicals in a single game (earning him an ejection from the game) and he kept his cool throughout Thursday’s game despite a frustrating game against Amar’e Stoudemire.
But Howard still has three technicals in the last four games. And whether he likes it or not, it feels like he has a short leash with the referees.
“He’s probably going to end up at some point with a suspension,” Stan Van Gundy said. “[The officials are] looking for him, there is no question. They make a call on him, they’re looking to see his reaction. Other guys get away with stuff, he’s not going to. He’s going to have to accept that. They’re looking for him. Every one of them. They make sure when they make a call they are looking right at him. That’s the way it’s going to be.
“He is going to have to handle that and understand, and I know he gets frustrated by it, but as far as that goes, he is not going to get treated like everybody else in the NBA. He is either going to make an adjustment or he is not.”
Van Gundy said he does not believe Howard is harder on officials than any other player in the league. In fact, he said there are at least 20 players harder on officials than Howard. There is not much more he can do, so Van Gundy said he will worry about other things.
Van Gundy is definitely going to bat for his star player and it appears his observation is correct as many other players have done worse without drawing the technical foul penalty. Several members of the media were predicting Van Gundy was likely to receive a fine for doing so.
He did comment: “He got his technical tonight because he was upset with himself for missing the shot. He yelled, ‘Damn,’ and he got a technical. That’s all it is. Damn is a technical; bullshit is OK based on what I saw tonight. Bullshit is fine, but damn is no good. I am just trying to get the rules straight.”
Van Gundy said it is an emotional game and staying silent is not always a viable option.
But he is right, ultimately Howard is going to have to adjust in some way. He does not want to play with less aggression or emotion because that is part of who he is.
Howard said it is tough not to get frustrated because he wants to use all the aggression and emotion that he can. He said he knows there is no reason to complain. He feels he has gotten better at handling his frustrations. He said he does not let his frustration affect him on the defensive end.
It is adjustment Jameer Nelson said everyone is still making. But he urged Howard to make his adjustment quickly, because the team cannot afford to lose him for any length of time.
“We all, because of the new change for the respect of the game, that emotions at times that we can show is limited,” Nelson said. “And we all just have to get used to it. We have to be smarter and he has to be smarter when he gets them. He has to understand we need him. We can’t afford for him to miss games especially now. We can’t do anything about it. We really just have to keep our cool and play through it.”
Howard is still struggling to make the necessary adjustment. But you don’t want him to change who he is too much as he has been extremely successful so far this season. The frustration is certainly bubbling.
But at least Howard has not lost his sense of humor about it.
“I guess I’m the NBA’s bad boy,” Howard said with a smile.