Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Now that the second “Dwightmare” is over and mercurial center Dwight Howard has chosen the Houston Rockets as his next team, the big question is can he deliver first a Western Conference championship and then an NBA championship?
Make no mistake, adding Dwight Howard to the Rockets lineup, if he’s healthy, makes Houston an instant contender in the Western Conference. Houston will run a nice inside-outside game with shooting guard James Harden and Howard.
Houston could throw opponents for a loop if center Omer Asik decided to stay. The Rockets could have a second twin towers with Asik and Howard on the court at the same time, moving Howard to a power forward due to his athleticism.
Throw in small forward Chandler Parsons and the Rockets have the making of a solid team. But they have quite a ways to go to get past the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the San Antonio Spurs.
The Clippers have a decent center to defend Howard in DeAndre Jordan and have a far superior point guard in Chris Paul. Add in power forward Blake Griffin and shooting guard J.J. Redick, who shoots best coming off a screen, and the long struggling Clippers look ready to contend next year.
Oklahoma City will be a contender as long as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are healthy. The Thunder may take a step back after losing Kevin Martin to free agency, but the same was said when OKC lost Harden and the Thunder were contending right up until Westbrook was lost for the season to an injury.
The San Antonio Spurs are also gearing up for one more run at the NBA championship after being literally within seconds of a championship against the Miami Heat. The Spurs have brought back Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobli for one more run.
The Spurs are also getting a vastly improved performance from Kawhi Leonard and if Tiago Splitter develops in the offseason, could be challenging for the Western Conference championship in 2014.
But, the one team everyone in the NBA is chasing right now remains the Miami Heat. The Heat haven’t made any free agent noise and won’t make any big moves. But a strategic signing of a veteran to help out isn’t out of the cards.
And as long as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Ray Allen can continue to play at a high level, the NBA championship will have to go through Miami.
The biggest hurdle for Howard remains accountability. He’s killed many a coach’s career and had it not been for Lakers owner Jim Buss’ stubborness, he might have killed Mike D’Antoni’s as well.
Wherever Howard has gone, any problems that pop up are bad teams, poor coaching, the wrong environment, etc.
Howard has long wanted to be the center of attention, pardon the pun, and now he will be in Houston. The question now for Howard is can he deliver?