Superman being mugged

FRANK ZICARELLI, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

No longer are teams merely tugging on Superman's cape.

It's more akin to a mugging than any defensive scheme designed to limit Dwight Howard, who has become the game's most dominant post presence.

Hard fouls get interpreted differently when the intended target is a player of Howard's stature. The debate is as old as the game of basketball itself.

Maybe it's just the nature of being big and imposing, but players who have preceded Howard were forced to deal with a different playing field when it comes to how officials enforce the rules.

Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O'Neal had to endure similar injustices.

Howard has yet to retaliate, but it may be only a matter of time based on the abuse the Orlando Magic star receives on a nightly basis.

When he wants to carve space in the paint, no player is capable of denying Howard, save for an official's call.

When Howard catches the ball deep in the post, the only way to deny a basket is by fouling him.

Teams used to resort to the Haq-a-Shaq defence late in games to force O'Neal to the line.

The strategy now applies to Howard, who is equally ineffective in converting from the charity stripe.

Both Howard and O'Neal can withstand the physical abuse and both will admit that the added attention and pounding comes with the territory. It's the extra bump to the shoulder, the extra elbow to the neck or head area that raises concerns, bumps and blows that often don't get called.

If sufficiently provoked, Howard would destroy an opponent. It's not his nature to retaliate, but the Magic franchise is nonetheless voicing its displeasure.

The league is fully aware of the team's concerns and head coach Stan Van Gundy was justifiably miffed when Miami Heat centre and Toronto native Jamaal Magloire basically tackled Howard during a recent matchup pitting the two Florida-based teams.

"Magloire's job is to beat on people and he's not in there because of his offensive skill," Van Gundy said.

"He's like those guys in hockey who come in and beat people up. Some of those guys can't skate, but they have a role. Jamaal Magloire has a role and that role is to beat the hell out of people."

Orlando visits Miami in a fortnight, which could deteriorate into fight night.

All that Jazz

Dirk Nowitzki, who was recently suspended one game for hitting Utah's Matt Harpring, had an interesting take on how games get officiated in Salt Lake City.

"I've got to do a better job keeping my head," the Mavs star said. "They (officials) don't call a lot of fouls there.

"I just think it's (Jazz head coach Jerry) Sloan having the boys play hard. Sometimes on the edge. And I've just got to be ready to take more hits and play through it and not lose my head."

Under Sloan, Utah always played with an edge for the past two decades. Some have argued that it's borderline dirty.

John Stockton is regarded as one of the game's all-time great point guards and projected this choir boy image.

In reality, Stockton was as tough as nails and opposing players often would complain about his tactics, which were described as dirty.

Money matters

Today is the day when all contracts in the NBA get guaranteed for the balance of the season. For the few players on non-guaranteed deals, today is the most nervous time of the season ... The NBA is a cut-throat business and the Portland Trail Blazers have set themselves up for some nasty consequences by warning teams not to sign Darius Miles, who was released earlier in the week by Memphis. For the uninitiated, if Miles is to play two more games, Portland will suffer a huge hit on its cap space and, as a result, face luxury tax issues.

Briefly

Add Larry Hughes' name among the most likely to be moved by the Feb. 19 trade deadline. Whether there is a suitor for the Chicago Bulls shooting guard is an entirely different question ... Ex-Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell served as a studio analyst for NBA-TV. Mitchell's gift for gab makes him a natural for the gig ... Under the department of busts is Charlotte's Adam Morrison. And to think the Gonzaga grad was linked to the Raptors when the team had the first overall pick in 2006.


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