Age and Enforcement

Despite the Miami Heat’s proclivity for appearing on national television this year, I haven’t seen too much of Juwan Howard appearing in uniform. His appearances on the sidelines wearing warm-ups notwithstanding, the elderly Howard has apparently turned into a ghastly anti-Scalabrine after his bodacious foul on the Wizards’ Hilton Armstrong the other night. Howard’s frown remained painted across his face as the encounter escalated. While most of the attention has gone towards Hilton Armstrong’s initial foul (and his semi-humorous explanation after the game), the reckless abandonment of mores – really, the only person acting intentionally during the sequence – was obviously Howard.



A million years ago, when my father was teaching me about the history of the game, ol’ Pops delivered a great assessment of the Celtics’ teams he had grown up watching. There was Havilcek, Jones, Russell… and then there’s the twelfth man who beats the shit out of somebody when Red says to go. It’s a familiar role to veterans past their usefulness. Thusly, that’s the role that Howard has grown into during the waning years of his career. His line of “fouls per 36 minutes” is pretty awesome (at least in foul league terms) since he played with the Mavericks four years ago.

I’ve been wondering about the psychological condition of some of these older, washed up players for awhile. I guess that for some players, the amount of money that they’re getting paid makes up for their diminished roles on whatever squad picks them up for the season. Jerry Stackhouse didn’t give a fuck, for example, about the Heat waiving him to sign Erick Dampier. Howard, denying the Minnesota Timberwolves a chance at his washed up greatness after a trade from the Rockets in the mid-oughts, found probably way less playing time on the Mavericks – in Dallas, he rounded into form as a far overpaid asshole with a penance for enforcement. After a couple other years of playing forgettable professional ball, he found himself on the Blazers, where he was beloved for the first time in years. Quickly he corrected the course and signed with the Heat, bound for seventy wins and a ring...

In comparison, there’s a player like Shaquille O’Neal, whose dominance is felt in a creepy, distant echo from the past, as a backboard bends under his tremendous weight or something. His allegiance is also tied to success. It was widely reported when O’Neal joined the Celtics over the offseason that he was willing to be their twelfth man, their enforcer -- it was actually a duty he was relishing. But his torrent of personality overshadows the work that he does on the court, which is far superior to Howard even as an enforcer, and besides shitty pick-and-roll defense better than any of the other old guys on the Heat. His proclivity for a ridiculous public life informs how aged his game is, and makes it even more transparent. He is a magician.

Since Howard and Shaq were both products of the same era, and bound by comparisons to players from the same era even older than they, they remain unfortunately analogous. But where Howard will very occasionally put up fairly decent numbers with a limited game (like he did in a span last season), Shaq performs in the same fashion he always has. His evolution is stagnant: he has his moments, but he’s never going to beat Andrew Bynum, never mind Pau Gasol. But the numbers or matchups don’t matter – ask Kendrick Perkins who will be starting when he comes back. Ask who the defensive enforcer will be. As Shaq goofs for the camera, Juwan Howard will be on the wicked Heat, doing mean faces on the bench.

7 comments:

Schmucko said...

never thought howard be the last remaining nba player from the fab 5. i had my money on stacey king.

Schmucko said...

jimmy king!

Chris said...

its a testament to his malignant nature that hes remained in the league so long. actually, i kinda hate howard now, and i wish he'd retire so magnum rolle could get a job

kelly said...

jimmy king still might have had the best post-fab-5 nba career!

Chris said...

he's definitely had the most dunkalectical

Schmucko said...

jimmy king was an original toronto raptor. can any other fab 5 member say that?

kelly said...

apparently jimmy king now either works as an i-banker or a radio color commentator: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_King

or both!

Post a Comment