Thursday , Feb , 15 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Magic’s Howard won’t be on bench for long

(Sports Network) – Please forgive Orlando’s Dwight Howard if he is a little
uncomfortable on Sunday at the start of the All-Star Game. That’s because
Howard isn’t used to being on the bench during the tip off.

Howard shouldn’t get used to it either.

Only odd and peculiar voting by the fans will keep Howard off the floor at
the start of this weekend’s All-Star clash. The third-year forward/center is
fourth in the league in rebounding (11.9 per game) and field goal percentage
(.593) and has led the Magic in scoring a team-best 22 times.

Overall, the 21-year-old is netting 17.6 points per game, good for seventh
among forward/centers.

Those numbers should have earned Howard the starting nod at center for the
Eastern Conference. Instead, the fans voted for the familiar name of Shaquille
O’Neal, despite the fact the Miami big man missed 32 games because of a left
knee injury. Howard finished second in the voting, 157,833 votes behind
O’Neal.

Howard didn’t let it bother him and sent his team into the break on a good
note. After losing three straight, Howard forcefully helped his club win two
of the final three games before the weekend.

Last Friday, Howard and Hedo Turkoglu hooked up on an alley-oop play with less
than a second left to give the Magic a thrilling 106-104 victory. Howard
netted 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting with 12 rebounds a day later in a loss
to the Nets before scoring 20 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in a 103-91 win
over Portland on Wednesday.

The win over the Trail Blazers pushed the Magic’s record on the year back over
.500 at 27-26. That puts Orlando seventh overall in the East and 3 1/2 games
behind Washington for the top spot in the Southeast.

There will be little rest this weekend now for Howard, who will participate in
the Slam Dunk contest in addition to his first All-Star game on Sunday.

So for one final year, Howard should just sit back and enjoy being in the
shadows of the excitement. Because the way he is going, he is going to be a
given in the East’s staring lineup for a long time to come.

ORL