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Dwight Howard deserves credit for effort in Washington

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Trying to rebuild his reputation, Howard has been a lone bright spot in D.C.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards are bad this season. They’re not the fun kind of bad that they used to be, back when John Wall and the pack of other not-so-good young players were running around aimlessly on the court, trying to figure out how to put together wins. They’re the kind of bad that’s boring - the kind of bad that makes an NBA team borderline unwatchable.

People aren’t tuning in to watch the development of a young star. It’s not like the team is dealing with significant injuries, which has been the Wizards’ recurring excuse for patience. The Wizards just really don’t have much going for them right now.

Except Dwight Howard.

Shocker, right?

Before coming to Washington, Howard had a reputation of being a locker room killer - someone who would inevitably divide the franchise and implode the roster. Perhaps the Wizards were so far gone that it forced Howard to go the other direction.

In a season that seems lost merely 15 games in, Howard has been one of only a few players on the team earning his money.

Despite a lingering back/butt injury, Howard has maintained a positive disposition - which, at this point, is more than most of his teammates can say. And more importantly, he’s been productive.

Howard totaled 25 points and 17 rebounds in Washington’s latest loss at home to Brooklyn, but his impact went beyond the stat sheet. Often, Howard was the only player on the court who was present - not aloof, ball-watching, failing to box out and sleepwalking through the game.

No matter what he’s dealt with - whether it’s a strange butt injury or an unforeseeable awful start to the season - he’s remained professional, both in attitude and in play.

Howard is no longer an All-Star player - he’s lost a step athletically and isn’t quite the defensive player he used to be - but he’s given the Wizards everything he has left.

After Friday’s loss, Howard put more work in overtime. He stayed at the arena and practiced free throws - while an arena worker heckled him, of course.

Howard was there, alone, without any of his teammates.

When the Wizards signed Howard, they expected professionalism, effort and acceptance of a diminished role. They got that.

Now it’s time for his teammates to show they’re capable of doing the same.