Dwight Howard should stay in L.A.

If Lakers center wants to rehab his image, it starts by staying put

Updated: March 8, 2013, 2:09 PM ET
By Chris Broussard | ESPN Insider
 Dwight HowardGreg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsIf Dwight Howard wants to get back to his smiling former self, he could start by staying in L.A.

I know Dwight Howard fairly well. I've had long conversations with him about topics outside of basketball. I can say without hesitation that he's a nice, good-hearted guy.

That, of course, was no secret until December 2011. He was Superman, the only center ever to win the dunk contest, LeBron James' smiling, fun-loving partner in McDonald's remix of the classic Michael Jordan-Larry Bird H-O-R-S-E commercial. You couldn't help but like him.

But in the past 15 months, Howard has obliterated that perception. Now his image is in tatters. He's still smiling, still fun-loving, but he's perceived as an immature, indecisive, childish malcontent.

His fall from grace might even be worse than James' "Decision" and loss to Dallas in the 2011 Finals. Of course, James has resurrected his image entirely. So the question is this: How can Howard do the same?