View From The Hardwood: Is The Western Conference Finals Dwight Howard’s T-Pain Moment? 

There’s no Tim Duncan or Marc Gasol left to praise in these NBA playoffs and use as an example of the impact NBA centers had on the game years ago. Or point to as an example of the post man’s viability as The League moves into the future.All that’s left is Dwight Howard and how he plays in this Western Conference finals series against a squad that exposes all-star centers as unnecessary, extra accessories–sort of like chrome spinning rims on an Escalade that runs on hella gas. The rims are dressings to make your car look more formidable or traditional, but they are also pocket killers and they slow you down at times. Golden State is that fresh, solar powered car minus the big bulky parts. It’s a funkier, newer, aerodynamic design and it certainly appeals to the younger generation. The NBA’s WCF features two teams that are unfamiliar with deep playoff runs. Golden State hasn’t raised a championship banner into the rafters at Oracle Arena since 1975, when African-American coach Alvin Attles was running the show.

When they still played in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena. And Houston’s last championship came over 20 years ago when Hakeem Olajuwon was still putting it down and a Hall of Fame center was the most lethal weapon in the game –The Great EqualizerWhen they still played in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena. And Houston’s last championship came over 20 years ago when Hakeem Olajuwon was still putting it down and a Hall of Fame center was the most lethal weapon in the game –The Great Equalizer

Back then, a GM would cut his arm off to get a seven-footer to man the paint on his squad. But regardless of what style each team implements, it’s just refreshing to have some new blood battling it out for NBA supremacy. Historically and contextually it doesn’t get any better because it’s a contest that could sway the fate of basketball styles in the NBA for years to come and it will be dictated by coaches whose style as players are now reflected in the swag of the high-caliber teams they coach.

Houston is more of a grinding team with flashes of explosiveness and a post persona potentially superior to almost every opponent. That’s how Rockets head coach Kevin McHale got down in his HOF career; killing dudes in the post with an array of monster moves.

McHale’s squad is led by gunner two guard James Harden, “The Prince of Penetration,” and the man who many would call “the last great center” in Dwight Howard (although his greatness is debatable and comes in spurts.)

If he chooses to stay locked in for seven games, Howard’s presence gives Houston an edge in the post against most teams. However, the Rockets’ emphasis on him in the middle almost makes Houston a throwback squad with what some would call “oldschool” or outdated basketball principles.

The dominance and importance of the “big man” or center in the NBA has been on a slow death dive for some years now. The game has changed to accommodate the little guard with the lethal scoring talents like Chef Curry and Klay Thompson. When The Splash Brothers meet Houston for Game 1 tonight, expect to see two styles going gladiator mad to see that their recipe for success prevails. The long range bombers led by Mr Insta – Trey represent the new age NBA. The airmail mentality also fits that of head coach Steve Kerr who had one responsibility in his NBA days while balling and c’hip-checking with MJ and then Tim Duncan and some sick Spurs squads: “Drain that J and don’t miss sucka.”

To some observers, Kerr’s recipe shows a disrespect for the importance of the center. GS flosses the new era basketball complexion. Quick skilled combo guards hoisting threes like they are two-pointers and connecting with absurd accuracy on jump shots, spreading the floor and basically eliminating the center from being a focal point of the offense. Both coaches have a goal of winning the NBA c’hip as players and coaches, which is truly a rare feat.

Houston can be dynamic, fast and new age nasty at times, but it would seem their true advantage comes when they slow the game down a tad, try to get GS out of that run-and-gun flow and let Dwight punish his undersized, under skilled competition in the post. If Dwight wants to leave an impression on somebody in Game 1 it should be Warriors center Andrew Bogut. Howard should assert his dominance and abuse Bogut like a Chris Dudley clone. Bogut is a 7-footer but he isnt a focus of the Warriors offensive scheme. We all know his job is to contain and frustrate Howard, grab boards and get the ball in the hands of the triggermen,

Bogut doesn’t seem to be worried about Howard too tough. In fact, he hinted that Houston is a better team without the center on the floor.

“I think they played really well without Dwight through phases of the season,” Bogut told reporters. “The tempo lifted more than they usually wanted it too. They’ve had success without Dwight in the game… it might slow them down a little bit (when he’s in) compared to when they didn’t have in him in the lineup. ”

That’s another Golden State slap in the face to the relevance of the NBA big man. In essence, he’s saying that Houston is more dangerous without D Howard slowing down the show. Bogut is inferring that when Houston gets out and starts chucking like Golden State, they are a more dangerous squad. And this is coming from a supposed center who is a genuine post player and an effective one in certain offenses. Is there no loyalty among skyscrapers anymore?

I dare say that it’s that oldschool combination of the prolific two-guard and the All-Star center working together in a perfectly-paced game-to-game symphony of basketball beauty that will be Houston’s only hope of defeating the “New Regime.” AKA “Chef Curry and The Pot Cookers.”

Bogut did give Howard some props. He compared Howard to Zach Randolph in “the way he plays,” but notes that Howard is “5-10 times more athletic than Z-Bo.”

There will be more than just a trip to the NBA Finals at stake in this WCF battle royal. This could be that Jay-Z – T Pain Death of Autotone at Summer Jam moment for Dwight Howard. The moment his reputation and everything he symbolizes is rendered obsolete by new jacks ready to change the game and stamp their style of play as the chosen NBA blue print for success moving forward.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.