Dwight Howard's Early Christmas Present: An MVP Level Performance In Detroit

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Photo by Jeff Balke
Howard is gradually showing why he was the No. 1 free agent last offseason.
In a perfect world, good NBA teams would like to be able to manage the regular season the way that the San Antonio Spurs do every year. Play your superstars around 70 games, know exactly which games to rest them (and maybe even win a few of those, like the Spurs did against Golden State this past Thursday night), win your 55-60 games and head into the playoffs fresh.

If you happen to forfeit home court advantage in a playoff round, so be it. You're the San Antonio Spurs.

This season, in a crowded Western Conference, made all the more cramped by playoff positioning party crashers Portland and (for now) Phoenix, and with a team that is still in the laboratory every night trying to figure out this chemistry thing, the Rockets are afforded no such luxury.

The basketball gods seemingly will not allow it.

And that's why Dwight Howard's performance against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night was easily the most important individual performance of the season thus far for the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets' season thus far has been more of a feeling out and survival process than an emphatic announcement that there's a new sheriff in town. At 18-10 and fifth overall in the Western Conference, if the season ended today, the Rockets would begin the postseason on the road. Not exactly how it's been drawn up on the chalkboard long-term in general manager Daryl Morey's office, not when around $150 million of Les Alexander's money is going to two superstar players these next four years or so.

If there's been a signature, though, of this season early on for the Rockets, it's been their depth and the basketball gods' putting said depth to the test. Yes, Morey managed to lure Dwight Howard to Houston, but he also prudently shopped in the bargain bin of veteran free agents in bringing back Aaron Brooks and Francisco Garcia, and also bringing in Omri Casspi, all with ridiculously team friendly deals.

With Jeremy Lin in street clothes and hipster glasses on a regular basis, Chandler Parsons' nursing back spasms on and off, James Harden's nursing nagging aches and pains, and Omer Asik's bruised ego manifesting itself as a bruised thigh, the depth of this team has been put to the test. Already, the Rockets have had more games missed due to injury this season than all of last season. Before Christmas.


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