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Pride Is a Funny Thing

 

Following the second straight Magic loss in the playoffs, Dwight Howard was asked how he felt about Paul Pierce’s allusions to sweeping Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals.  His response?

“Am I supposed to have a comment on that?” Howard said. “No, they only won two games. I mean, they can write what they want. But we’re going to stay humble and stay focused. Pride comes before a fall, just know that.”

Howard was paraphrasing the Biblical Proverb 16:18, which reads “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” The curious part about this response is the fact that Howard chose to highlight this part of the Bible to illustrate how blasphemous nature of Pierce’s over-confidence. The Bible certainly views pride unfavorably.  But what does it say about vanity? or wealth?  What would the Bible say about this?  Or this?  Or how about this?

I am sure the Bible could prove that Dwight Howard, the guy whose staunch Religious beliefs are well documented (here), is the least Holy player in the NBA.  However, the point of this post is not to question Dwight Howard’s religious beliefs or the duplicity of religion in sports.  This is meant to clarify why the Celtics will win this series and to assuage Celtics’ fans worries with regards to Paul Pierce’s potential jinxing.

The Celtics will win this series because they are the better team, their offense is not predicated on throwing the ball to their star center and hoping for the best, and they are incredibly focused.

That last bit, focus, is exactly what Dwight Howard lacks.  Throughout these past two games, he has seemed very disengaged with what is actually being determined on the basketball court.  When the going got tough, he took the easy way out and flagrantly fouled Paul Pierce.  When his team was down late in a playoff game, he seemed more passionate about having a jovial exchange with a fan rather than discuss the game plan- so much so that Rashard Lewis had to run over and bring Howard back into the fold.

Howard has a million-dollar smile and a beautiful off-court-persona, but he appears more interested with his “Clack Kent interviews Dwight Howard” halftime bit than actually having a lead at halftime.  I have only seen one Celtic smile this entire playoffs- which was Rajon Rondo after defeating the Cavaliers in Game 6. I savored that smile for what it was: a fleeting glimpse of what Celtics’ fans might see a lot more. Not now though, and not for a while yet.

If the Magic are going to make any noise in this series, it unfortunately (for the Magic) starts with Howard.  So far, he has bounced back from a less-than-impressive Game 1 to have a great Game 2- individually, that is.

I was (un)lucky enough to attend the February 7th Celtics vs. Magic game at the Garden and I had a few observations I have been saving for a rainy day:

  • The Magic blew the Celtics out of the building
  • Dwight Howard spent a considerable amount of his time on the bench with his back to the court
  • Howard knows all the words to “Lady Marmalade” and is not shy about it

Blow-out or not, I could not help but think of how different Dwight Howard was from Larry Bird.  This was due mostly to the fact that I was reading, “When the Game was Ours” by Jackie MacMullan at the time.  So many things struck me about Bird’s view on basketball, competition, and endorsements- all of which came flooding back to me when I saw this gem during Tuesday night’s game:

Focus, preparation, and insatiability. That is why the Celtics will win this series. I know Dwight Howard knows who Larry Bird is, but after seeing this commercial I had to pause, laugh to myself and say, “why am I not surprised?”

  • t4inc

    Isn’t it somehow appropriate that Larry Bird, who epitomized what it was to be a Celtic, ate the lunch of Lebron and Howard (i.e. Cleveland and Orlando). Would have been great if Kobe were there too.

    Speaking of Lebron, I’m pretty sure now that his ceiling as a player will never be “greatest small forward ever” much less “greatest ever.”

    In my mind, the title “greatest small forward ever” rightly belongs to Bird, who would never have laid the sorts of eggs that Lebron did in the eastern semis. Of course, never having seen Hondo is his prime, I’m pretty sure that there are older Celtics fans out there who could argue that he was better than Bird.

    In any case, by Bird’s 7th season, he’d already won 3 titles. Lebron hasn’t won one yet.

    The only one who still thinks Lebron is better than Bird (other than Cleveland and New York fans) is John Hollinger; the same genius who said that the Lakers — and not the Celtics — are the NBA’s greatest franchise.

  • Berkcelt

    I guess Clar…er, Dwight puts the “iron” in irony.

  • Berkcelt

    Well in fairness to Lebron, he’s probably what, 1 or 2 years older than Larry when Larry entered the league? He also hasn’t played with prime or near prime HOF players. When your second best player is Mo Williams or Andy Varejao it’s a minor miracle your team wins 60+ games.

    Dwight and Lebron have immense talent but they are still young players. They may not put up better stats, but I expect they’ll both be better players in future years.

  • cam

    When I say this to my dad he says bird made those players hall of famers.

  • Berkcelt

    I can’t say for sure what his impact was, I was just a kid and didn’t start watching until 1988-89, but I kind of doubt that. DJ was a Finals MVP before he played with Larry, and Chief and McHale were great in their own rights. I think Larry is a bit mythologized, romanticized or whatever. Every time I think of the story where he busts his hand in a barfight–during THE NBA FINALS–I just can’t believe it. I guess it helps we won the ring next year, but I can’t help but think if Paul Pierce did that he would have been eviscerated. Part of that is probably the 24hr news cycle but from what I’ve heard it was basically swept aside.

  • Bert

    I agree here, most notably with the fact that Howard is still smiling. Even in game 1 before the Magic made their run they were down double digits in the third and Howard is seen clapping his hands and laughing at the hilarity of missed shots in the playoffs. It continued in game 2 and it continues to irk me.

    The magic are not out of it, but Glen Davis seems to be a more driven center than Howard right now. Of course, Davis does has something to prove coming off the bench, but Howard has a title to win or lose.

  • Jay P

    Dwight loves the spotlight. He loves his commercials with Chuck, he loves dancing on the sidelines. He loves seeing himself as Clark Kent interviewing superman. He probably sleeps with that cape on at night, he’d certainly wear it on the court if the league let him.

    Everything else is secondary to his stardom. A sentence we may have to speak about Lebron James too, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, for now, depending on where he decides to play.

    The Celtics are champions, you won’t see them dancing at half time. You won’t see them carrying on conversations with fans, you’ll barely see them crack a smile, even if their up 20 with 3 minutes to go. This is how the game should be played, this is how champions act.

    You wonder why a team can’t do the little things in the 4th, you wonder why they crack under the pressure? Well just watch em at half time, their focus there will tell you how they’ll close it out.

  • http://CelticsHub.com Zach Lowe

    There have been plenty of guys said to be too happy-go-lucky/un-serious to win a title, right up until the moment they won titles.

  • Jay P

    @Zach Lowe

    Probably true, but I think we’d have to look at other causes that allowed them to get it.

    I’d say, those instances are the exceptions that prove the rule.

  • http://CelticsHub.com Zach Lowe

    The most obvious comparison is Shaq, who partied as much as any player in the league, maybe save Iverson, never got into shape, and still was the best player on at least 3 title teams.

  • http://celticshub.com Brendan Jackson

    Shaq’s “other causes” were Kobe and DWade.

  • matthew

    @Berkcelt – lebron was 1 or 2 years older than larry when larry entered the league? are you kidding?? get your facts straight man.

  • http://CelticsHub.com Zach Lowe

    And Howard has plenty of supporting talent now.

    I mean, in all sports, how many guys “just aren’t cut out to win a title”–until they do? Phil Mickelson didn’t have it. John Elway didn’t have it. Hell, people said Michael Jordan couldn’t win a title. Derek Lowe was a total immature head case, until he became Boston’s most consistent post-season pitcher, starting in 2003. A-Rod couldn’t hit in the clutch, etc.

    And as for the “Shaq had Kobe” thing? I’d say that Kobe had Shaq, who won all three Finals MVPs during LA’s run and was the single most dominant player in the league–and it wasn’t close.

  • Jay P

    @Matthew

    Um, re-read what he said, cause he’s right, or not far off. Lebron is 25, Larry played 4 years in college, entered the league in the 79-80 season, and was 23(22 maybe? Not sure, didn’t bother to look up the exact age.) So right now, Lebron at 25 is about 2 years older than Bird, when Bird came into his rookie season.

  • Jason

    Pride Dwight? The Cavs were proud of their 61 wins. Orlando was proud of their 59 wins. The Cavs were proud going into the Celtics series. Orlando was proud of being 8-0 in the playoffs.

    Contrast. Even after a supposed huge upset of the Cavs (remember they were the best team in the league) in impressive fashion, literally in postgame quotes Pierce said he was not proud of winning that series. They still are not proud of anything they’ve accomplished this year. Only the championship will bring them pride. Not regular season records. Not first or second round wins. Not goofy pre-game celebrations or novelty interviews.

    There’s the difference. The actual people that are proud in this soap opera were the Cavs and Magic. And yes fittingly they are falling (are already fallen).

    It’s sage advice Dwight, just too bad you can apply it properly because you’ve completely misidentified who the proud parties are.

  • The Blind

    Oh, you guys are talking about Shaq: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1169435/1/index.htm

    “Lakers coach Phil Jackson once said of Shaq, “He’s the one guy that didn’t really like to work.” But what if he had? What if he’d devoted himself to the game the way Bryant has, if he’d become a 70% foul shooter, if he’d developed even one face-up move in the post? Seriously, how many rings would he have won? Eight? Ten? Could he have averaged 40 and 20?”

    Sometimes when people are too talented, and still young, they always think that another opportunity will just fly to their palms. Howard is exactly this too talented, still young person.

    The way Howard is acting, it is just human nature. Why are you guys so serious about being serious in the game? I can still have a shot next year if I failed this year.

    Ask Pierce, Allen and KG, how long have they been waiting for, before this opportunity of winning a ring drop by?

    That’s why the Celtics is more focus now. They know the end is coming. For Howard, there is still tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow.

  • leonard hamilton

    Times are different, money is different. We are in a period where sports attempts to market itself as entertainment. The ticket prices and sports packages are out of control. Each station has 4, 5 expert analysts none of which can properly predict the games even with 24/7 access. The Cavs and now the Magic are victims of this. The buffonery prior to the games is the epitome of fans wanting to be involved in every aspect of the games. Myself, I no longer watch as much. It is even worse that ESPN wants to give us a daily where is Lebron going watch each and every day, refusing to cover the games being played. What the Celtics are doing is extremely impressive. If Doc Rivers can get a second ring with this team, that should shut up the critics. But then again, this is Boston. I cannot even recall the last time KC Jones got any respect for what he accomplished.

  • EEEEE

    hahahahahahahahaha

    First Wade
    then the best player on the planet
    now superman!

    Black mamba next!

    No one can say they didnt beat the best if they (hopefully) win it all……

    Im loving it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Go C’s!

  • Berkcelt

    @matthew,

    I said Lebron right now *is* only 1 or 2 years older…I was just about right:

    Lebron is 25 right now, birthday is Dec 30.

    Assuming the season started about the same time as now, Larry turned 23 about a month into his rookie season. So there ya go.

  • http://hoopstersworld.blogspot.com miss j.moxie

    I actually don’t have a problem with Dwight smiling and all. He did say he plays better when he is just himself. He was definitely more smiley in game 2, and he did put up better numbers in game 2. What I don’t like is that Rashard had to pull him into the huddle. I think it’s possible to win with a happy demeanor, but not a happy-go-lucky one.

  • http://www.hotmail.com Josh

    Howard is an athletic, talented joke. Go get a killer instinct, desire to win, and offensive game, and then get back to me Dwight.

  • rav

    Sometimes when people are too talented, and still young, they always think that another opportunity will just fly to their palms. Howard is exactly this too talented, still young person.

    Definitely sometimes, because (and I’m assuming by talented you mean athletic gifts because in terms of offensive skill he’s not much) almost everyone in the NBA has some level of athletic gifts, height for one.

    KG is taller than Dwight, was pretty damn athletic in his prime (just a shade less than Stoudemire, for comparison), and he was blessed (bible imagery there ;)) with the coordination of someone a foot shorter.

    Btw those Paul Pierce tweets were apparently fake

  • The Blind

    ray: I guess athletically gifted is a better description. Dwight’s gift make him a very dominant player at the center position, similar to Shaq’s during his prime at the Lakers. Maybe 80% of Shaq?

    I don’t see Dwight winning a ring with the current cast, unless he actually do developed a killer move or shoot a higher % or both. One major reason: he has no Kobe or Phil. Shaq had, and that’s why he never really needed to develop any killer moves (don’t mention the baby hook) or improve his shooting. (I still don’t know how he got his 4th with the Heat. Maybe because the opponent was the Dallas???)

    I remember Jordan once mentioned that, he never thought Charles would win a ring because Charles didn’t work hard enough.

    In the end, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Ewing, Reggie Miller also won nothing, Dwight might or might not win a ring, but all these players coloured the NBA and our life.

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