Why Dwight Howard and Danny Green are important to a Sixers championship run
The NBA playoffs are right around the corner, and for the Sixers, this year’s postseason means so much more. With three more wins, Philly can lock up home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
Many have talked endlessly about the talent level of the team, MVP Joel Embiid, and the deep bench as signs for a championship in Philly. All of those are huge parts of what makes a team title contenders, but there is so much more under the surface that makes this Sixers squad look championship-caliber.
Many teams, even Sixers squads of the recent past, have had enough talent on their roster to compete, and some even had the bench talent to back up the starters as well. What I believe separates many of those teams of the past from the squads that ended up lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy is the atmosphere of the team. Along with the superb play of Embiid, the lockdown defense of Ben and Matisse, and the great role players lies two men who have brought a championship attitude to the locker room.
Danny Green has been great for the Sixers this season, hitting 40 percent of his threes and playing stout defense on the other end. Dwight Howard has been an anchor for the second unit at center, notching 11 double-doubles this season as the backup big man. Both men have filled their roles well on the court, but not enough people are talking about what they’ve done off the court.
Coming into the offseason, Green and Howard had won a championship in a difficult season. Both came to the Sixers knowing what the culture and atmosphere of a championship locker room look like. Howard even chose to leave that Lakers team to come to Philly. I am fully confident when they got to the Sixers, a locker room filled with young talent, they changed the vibe on the team.
Howard and Green have rallied the team around the idea of a championship because they know what it takes. They know that it takes a ton of mental fortitude, and requires everyone to stay positive even when the team hits a skid. There’s a reason why you always see clips of Danny Green dancing in warmups, keeping everyone’s spirits high. There’s a reason you always see Dwight Howard being goofy on the bench and in pressers. These guys are making sure everyone doesn’t forget how special this season is, and it is paying off big time.
It isn’t like the Sixers haven’t gone through struggles this season. Sure, their record is one of the best in the NBA, but things looked tough at many points of the season. People seem to forget this team lost their MVP for 11 games in the middle of the season, a stretch that also included their longest road trip. Sixers teams of the past would seem defeated, and falter without their star center, but this year it was different.
The team rallied and went 8-3 in the absence of Joel, with six of those games coming on the road. I’m not equating the Sixers’ ability to win without Joel solely to Green and Howard’s veteran presence in that locker room, but it had to have had an impact.
There are many things that make this year’s Sixers team a true competitor for the title, and one of them that isn’t talked about enough is the championship mindset and attitude Danny Green and Dwight Howard have instilled in this locker room. Now as the postseason approaches quickly, that mindset and atmosphere will truly be put to the test.
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia 76ers.