Tonight the Lakers face off against the man they once believed to be the future face of their franchise: Dwight Howard. This will be an interesting game simply because there is so much animosity spread out amongst both teams. The Lakers are embarrassed that Dwight walk away, Harden is presumably still upset about former Laker MWP giving him a concussion, and then there is always the legendary animosity between Rambis and McHale. All in all, this should be fun.
I grew up watching hockey, so I am not ashamed to admit that I love it when fights break out on the floor. Granted it is never in good in basketball as it is in hockey, but I will take what I can get. I don’t expect Rambis to charge at McHale and then have McHale take him out with a close line tonight, but I will admit that would be awesome.
Instead, I will be looking for more subtle jabs. First, the Lakers will implement Hack-a-Howard (by the way, every analyst always said Hack-a-Dwight and missed such an obvious alliteration, so I will be changing the term). The Lakers will take advantage of a tactic that hurt them so much last year that it put them in the bottom of the pack for free throw percentage. I expect them to take some aggression out on Howard using this method. Pau of course won’t be aggressive, because that is not his style, but I expect major hits from Jordan Hill. I wouldn’t be surprised to see if Mike puts in a few scrubs just to teach D12 a lesson. I assume all this hacking will lead to technicals and maybe even a little scuffle.
The issues between the Lakers and Dwight are pretty obvious, however I don’t think it will take much to set Harden over the edge either. Harden can play dirty. We have seen this on multiple occasions, and if this game gets physical then I think it is very likely he can get into an altercation. A lot of this will depend on how competitive the game becomes. If it is a blowout on either end then I would expect a fight involving multiple techs near the end of the game. If it is a close game then it will be physical throughout and the refs will keep both teams on a tight leash leading to multiple techs through out the game.
I am most intrigued to see how the coaches behave throughout the game. Kevin McHale has been very public about his hatred for everything purple and gold. He may just be the fuel that turns this current spark into a fire. Mike on the other hand has continually put his foot in his mouth. He keeps saying stupid things regarded Dwight and is universally blamed for his departure. He has a lot to prove. He knows he is coaching on borrowed time and needs to try to extend it as far as he can before the Lakers inevitably fire him and bring back Phil. Being embarrassed by Dwight in the beginning of the season will not earn him any brownie points.
I hope this game brings entertainment from the court and not just from the off court drama. Here’s to hoping Steve Nash can play real minutes and make this game interesting, as opposed to games against the Mavs and Warriors. If not, at least we can all enjoy the commentary from the half time report. Always love Shaq making fun of Dwight, and Kenny making fun of Charles.