Howard wears a big man's target

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:05 PM ET

TORONTO - Dwight Howard isn’t a bad guy and neither is he a guy who goes around pounding on some hapless foe.

The man simply known as Superman just happens to be the game’s most dominant big guy, which makes him an easy target by officials and a difficult guy to officiate.

It’s the nature of the game, an issue that has never been properly addressed whether it involves a George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, name a transcendent big in any era and plenty of grey is sure to surface.

On Monday night, just as the Magic was poised to play host to Portland, Howard was nowhere to be found inside Amway Center, where Orlando’s MVP candidate became the centre of attention.

Having picked up his 16th technical on Friday, Howard had to pay the price, which in this case was a mandatory one-game suspension without pay.

All told, Howard has forked over roughly $200,000 this season, money that goes to league charities.

“I try not to allow officials affect how I play,’’ Howard said. “It’s tough. I’m not a bad guy and I’m not a hot head.”

But he’s a guy who is easily annoyed when fouls aren’t called his way when they should, only to see calls go against Howard when opponents embellish contact.

What Howard must do is keep his composure, resist the urge to use his elbows to clear space in the paint and dominate when he gets the ball.

DEALT ANOTHER BLOW

First came the trade of Gerald Wallace and now comes word that Stephen Jackson will be inactive until his troublesome hamstring is completely healthy.

Not exactly good news for a team that’s in the playoff hunt at a time when Charlotte returned home from an 0-4 road trip.

“He’s going to have to sit out to get better,’’ Bobcats head coach Paul Silas said as Charlotte began a three-game homestand with a Monday night tip against the Clippers. “I don’t know how many games he’ll sit out, but he has to sit out.

“We can’t afford to have him in-between. If he comes back too soon, he’ll just re-injure it.’’

Jackson leads Charlotte in scoring with a 19.0 average. He and Wallace formed one of the NBA’s most athletic wing combos until Wallace’s trade deadline deal to Portland.

Point guard D.J. Augustin suddenly becomes the Bobcats’ primary scoring option.

The pain in Jackson’s left hamstring intensified during a loss to the Lakers when matched up against Ron Artest.

In back-to-back losses in L.A. and Denver, Jackson went a combined 6-of-20 from the field.

“He really shouldn’t have played,’’ Silas added.

KINGS COULD BOLT

A looming lockout isn’t the only cloud hovering over the NBA.

For the second time in four years, there’s a real possibility of a team relocating, this one involving the Sacramento Kings moving to Anaheim.

In good times, Arco Arena was among the most vocal locales, a veritable house of horrors for opposing teams.

But as the Kings have struggled in recent times, Arco has become antiquated and Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof have made noises of setting up shop elsewhere.

During his playing career, no one carried himself with more class and professionalism than Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento who is trying to keep the Kings in town.

After meeting with the Maloofs, Johnson acknowledged the possibilities of Sacramento losing the Kings.

“I appreciate the Maloofs for meeting with me,” Johnson said in a statement. “We had a candid and productive conversation about our mutual goals and interests. I made clear that our community wants the Kings to stay, but we are fully aware that this is ultimately (the Maloofs’) decision.”

Johnson said the city will work to build a new arena, even if the Kings bolt.

In 2008, Seattle lost its franchise when it relocated to Oklahoma City.

LAKERS IN GEAR AGAIN

So much for the Lakers looking old and vulnerable.

With so much doom and gloom heading into the all-star break, a lot of concern was getting heaped on the Lakers.

But since Kobe Bryant’s MVP performance in the mid-season classic played at Staples Center, the Lakers have made many of the naysayers eat their words.

The latest evidence was provided in a rout of the Spurs, a team that does not get humbled at home.

In beating up on San Antonio, the Lakers showed just how much of a threat they are of three-peating once the post-season begins.

As well as the Spurs have looked, no team can match up against the Lakers when Andrew Bynum is playing at a high level.

When they went into the break, the Lakers had lost three in a row.

Once they reconvened, L.A. used its offensive prowess in winning three in a row, a stretch that had the Lakers averaging 106.0 points.

In its four subsequent wins, L.A. would average 92.8 points, but held opponents to 83.3 points.

In San Antonio, the Lakers led by as many as 32 points en route to winning 99-83.

“We couldn’t make layups, threes, free throws, anything. And besides, they played more angry,” Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili said of the Lakers. “We were a little, not soft, but waited to see what was going to happen and they came to get it.”


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