Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Dwight Howard has put priority on his appearance in the All-Star Game after willingly sitting out regular season games he was medically cleared for with a shoulder injury. It's a decision that should raise eyebrows.
Dwight Howard shrugged off a few important games in the midst of the Lakers' push to be the eighth seed in the West because of a nagging torn labrum that he intends on playing through, citing his future health as the most important thing. So it makes perfect sense that he's insistent he'll play in the All-Star Game just a week later.
Look, the All-Star Game is dumb. We love it because it's dumb. We love it because the league's most talented players all get on the court and act silly and have some fun. Sure, there's the context of the game, and sometimes the game is exciting and modestly competitive, but for the most part, it's nothing to care about. I feel dumb for just getting modestly upset about this contest, not to mention buying into the storyline of "whether or not X PLAYER cares about his team."
But I really can't wrap my mind around Howard playing All-Star Weekend. Drew Garrison of Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll made this point very clearly:
There's nothing to gain during All-Star weekend for Dwight. A game that has no bearing on the Lakers season, and Howard's season, needs to be off the slate. No ifs, ands, buts, or otherwise. With the torn labrum in his shoulder keeping him on a "day-to-day" basis, Howard entertaining the idea of playing in the All-Star game would be entirely unacceptable. A player that says his back is only 75 percent of what it needs to be needs to 100 percent reject playing a single minute. If he honestly, and truly, is concerned with his health as he claims he is (there's no reason to believe otherwise), then it's clear.
Garrison reiterated it when Howard announced he wanted to play in the All-Star Game:
What better time to play a meaningless exhibition games then now?!
Despite repeatedly saying his long-term health was his primary concern, and missing critical regular season games during the Lakers' seven-game road trip, it appears Dwight will play on and take part in All-Star weekend
In Howard's defense, he said he'll likely only play a few minutes. But if Howard's shoulder is bothering him, and he does prioritize his health and/or his team, why would he possibly take the court, even for a few minutes, in a game that doesn't mean anything?
I can see why Howard would want to play. I mean, it sure will be nice to get on a court and play alongside nine guys who also aren't giving consistent effort defensively without fear of people breaking down just how poorly you're playing. But most importantly, it's the All-Star Game, the league's marquee in-season event. Everybody's watching! How could Dwight let everybody down by not playing?!?!?!
This is silly for two reasons. First, Howard is a superstar, and he plays on the Lakers. Ten of Dwight's final 30 games will appear on national television, as the national TV schedule has been kind enough to let the rest of the world tune in on Los Angeles' mediocrity in 2012-2013. It's not like Orlando, when the only thing putting eyes on the team was Howard himself. We've seen your Adidas ads. We're familiar.
Secondly, nobody would care if he missed the game. Joakim Noah might take time to rest his plantar fasciitis, and nobody's going to fault him for sitting. It would be the same with Howard, with the exception of the fact that Noah would be playing in his first All-Star game and Howard has been in every game since 2007. Howard would make just as big an impression showing up, sitting on the sideline, and having a good time as he would if he played on the court -- although considering the Lakers just ran off a three-game winning streak with him out and lost two of three when he came back, that might be the case with them, too.
Howard is actively making poor decisions to prove his reputation as a guy who doesn't have his priorities straight true. As Garrison notes, it could cause whatever Lakers fans still like him to turn. Hopefully, Howard's shoulder heals and he turns into the dominant, explosive star we know he can be. Maybe if he does that, he can earn himself a few more appearances on national TV -- you know, in the playoffs.