CLARK KENT OR SUPERMAN? This column is being written prior to the Tuesday night game between the Magic and the Lakers. This will be the first time that Dwight Howard will play there, since he was traded. Orlando spent a year of agony wondering whether or not Howard wanted to stay, or if he wanted to leave. One day he would tell them that he definitely wanted to stay in Orlando, and then the next day he would say that he had changed his mind. The local Fans were on a roller coaster, and they were terribly confused.
It is generally believed that they fired their head coach in an effort to convince Howard to stay. The management of that team had the unhappy feeling that they were dealing with a child's mind in a very muscular body. They did not know what to offer him; because they could not actually find out what it was he really wanted. Perhaps, he did not know himself.
So, he is returning to play there. There is not any doubt in my mind that he will be booed from the time that his plane lands in Orlando, until it clears the runway to leave. They may have actually started booing before the plane left LAX. Will this affect how he plays the game? I think that it will, and although I expect the Lakers to win, I don't think that Howard will have a great game. At this point in his career, he has not yet developed the mental toughness required of championship players. He has done better in that area; since Kobe Bryant set a good example for him to follow, and then yelled at him when he slacked off. He now has a better mental approach to the game than he did at the start of the season. I think that he has been dreading this game, and that he will breathe a big sigh of relief when it is finally over.
KOBE CONTINUES HIS REIGN . . . The Lakers were trailing the Raptors by 10 points at the end of the third quarter in last Sunday's game at Staples Center. Most of the Fans and some of Players on the Lakers thought that the game was over. However, the game is not over until Bryant says that it is. His team was behind, but he simply would not give up. He ratcheted up his energy and intensity, and he fought on, almost single-handedly. Then, when the score was close, they took heart again and Kobe delivered the victory.
TIGER ROARS AGAIN . . . Tiger Woods life story is like one of those movies that we have seen many, many times. The hero bursts upon the scene, and he becomes incredibly successful. He wins all of the time, and everything that he touches turns to gold. His life is an absolutely perfect dream. Then, suddenly he suffers an enormous tragedy. His world falls apart. He loses all his matches, and he literally falls to the bottom of the heap. He tries to come back, but he is unable to do so. He then suffers various injuries and illnesses that appear to be career ending. Everyone seems to know that he is finished, but he still will not accept it. Then, bit by bit, he begins to improve. Still, no one expects him to make it all the way back to the top.
Then, suddenly he begins to win again. He walks the golf course with his old swagger. It is easy to see that his confidence is back. He took the first part of his career for granted, but he will not make that mistake again. It was his own fault, but he has suffered, and he does not want to do that again. He now fully appreciates the fact that it is better to be on top of the world than on the bottom.
THE BIG DANCE . . . UCLA will make it, but USC will not. It will be a pleasant surprise if the Bruins make it as far as the Sweet Sixteen. It appears that Coach Howland has lost his mojo, and his team is simply going sideways. Poor USC, they had a short winning spurt under new head coach, Bob Cantu. Then, they lost their last two games to Washington and Washington State. As disappointing as that was, two of the Trojan basketball players have been suspended indefinitely from all team activities and will sit out the Trojans Pac-12 conference tournament opener against Utah. They were arrested for reportedly being involved in a large fight in downtown Spokane, Washington at 2 a.m. Sunday morning.
In 2011, the then coach Kevin O'Neill was involved in a fight, and was suspended from his coaching duties for one of the tournament games. Perhaps, we should start calling them the Fightin' Trojans.