by Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport

When I was a kid, I was gifted this game called “Operation” one Christmas. Let me tell you, it was friggin’ addictive. If you don’t know the game, it’s simple. It’s an electronic game of skill where a player has to “operate” on a patient named “Cavity Sam,” who has a bulbous red light bulb nose that lights up when you eff up. The object is to remove Sam’s funny ailment parts with a pair of tweezers. If you touch the sides while trying to remove say, his “wretched ankle” for example, the nose buzzer sounds—“AAHHT!”—and you’re screwed because you lose your turn.

That first week or so, you’d have thought I was making a twisted Kanye West beat with all that blasted buzzing. But miraculously, I got better and soon mastered cutting up ol’ Cavity Sam.

So as I sat down and thought about what I would say/write about the enigmatic Dwight Howard, who falls out of last year’s top 5 to the No. 8 spot on this year’s list, I recalled that special time when I “couldn’t get right” learning how to play that damn game.

Dwight Howard is me. Or rather, he’s the young version of me who kept effin’ up attempting to develop fine motor skills while playing a classic game.

I don’t want to leave Orlando.”

AAHHT!

No, I really don’t.”

AAHHT!

OK, I’ll opt in.”

AAHHT!

“OK, I do wanna leave Orlando but I still want people to like me.”

AAHHT!

I want to go to Brooklyn.”

AAHHT!

“I’ll be a Laker but I don’t want to sign an extension yet.”

AAHHT!

I want to be the Lakers’ first option.”

AAHHT!

My back hurts.”

AAHHT!

My shoulder hurts.”

AAHHT!

I’m not getting enough touches.”

AAHHT!

I want the ball more in the fourth quarter.”

AAHHT!

Get rid of Kobe and I’ll stay.”

AAHHT! AAHHT! AAHHT!

Well, you get the point.

Like me in the early stages of learning to play Hasbro’s finest creation, for the past nine seasons, the 6-11 pivot from Atlanta has been trying to become an elite center in the NBA while touching all of the sides and setting off all the alarms.

And ’12-13 was the worst. In his transition from O-Town to Hollywood, the seven-time All Star went from averaging 20.6 points, 14.5 boards and 1.9 swats per outing to 17.1, 12.4 and 1.4, respectively.

AAHHT!

Most people would admonish Dwight for his continued miscues—verbal and nonverbal—with the tried and true adage, “put up or shut up,” but since I live in Houston and want D12 to do well in my own backyard, because, let’s face it, we long to revisit those legendary “Clutch City” days in the land of the Trill, that motto needs revision.

Put up and shut up.

That’s right, Dwight. Muzzle it and live up to your self-proclaimed Superman moniker.

Quit bumpin’ your gums. Quit complaining. Quit bellyaching. Quit worrying about what players who aren’t playing anymore have to say about your game. Quit worrying about Orlando letting another player wear your number. Quit worrying so much about stats.

Quit fueling the fire with whiny words and waffling ways and stoke the flames with spankin’ new go-to moves in the post. French Montana may be “Dwight Howard in the post, dawg,” but in reality, when looking at your track record on O in the paint, that don’t mean ish. HAAN!

Your signing with the Houston Rockets is a chance at a much-needed fresh start. It’s kismet. Hell, Daryl Morey practically got on one knee and proposed to get you to the 713. Cherish your new home. Covet it. Protect it. Put on a freakin’ hard hat and go to work, son. Become a beast in the paint. Plant a flag in the lane because that’s your house.

In practice, that’s your time to be vocal. Put some bass in your voice. Be particular about your spacing and when and where you want the rock. Demand the rock.

Seal off your defenders, get position. And if you don’t get the ball on time, reposition, battle for it, seal again. Use those powerful shoulders. Get brolic on ‘em. “Deebo” dudes when you have to. James Harden is a willing passer. He’ll get you the rock in due time. He’ll figure out which shoulder to deliver the ball to. Kevin McHale and Hakeem Olajuwon will make sure of it. You’ll get your touches.

And when you get that Spaulding, you better have moves, countermoves and countermoves to those countermoves. The dunks are cool, but be more than that. Step your game up. Hakeem was a scientist with it on the low block. And McHale? Nobody could stop dude down low. Nobody. Learn their secrets. Watch film. Listen. Take notes. Lots of them. Learn to have answers to complex defensive schemes. When the D collapses on you, know what to do like it was written. Let it become instinctive.

It doesn’t matter what any pundit or Shaq or Kareem has said about you. F#@k a shelf life. Put up superstar numbers and the peanut gallery shuts the hell up with the quickness.

And know this: You’re only going to get the ball in the fourth quarter if you learn how to shoot free throws (49.2 percent from the charity stripe ain’t the business). You want to be a closer? Cool. Learn how to shoot freebies.

And that pick-and-roll you despise so much? Get over it. You convert over 70 percent of your shots off the pick-and-roll. You want shots? You can eat all day off Harden and Jeremy Lin picks, D. We’re talkin’ fat fat full like Precious at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

You wanna smile? Smile after you shake a dude out of his sneakers for a silky smooth hook shot, turnaround or reverse layup. Smile after you tattoo the rim with a Slamadamonth-worthy dunk. Smile after you smack an opposing player’s shot attempt into the cheap seats. Smile after you put up a triple-dub comprised of points, rebounds and blocks. Smile after you sink two game-winning free throws. Smile when Daryl Morey finally puts an NBA Championship ring on it.

And when you touch the sides and set off the buzzer again by fouling out or getting shut out or letting every dude from the other team all up in the lane for a deuce…

AAHHT!

Own it. Don’t point fingers. Don’t blame teammates or coaches. Take responsibility. Own it.

And then use it.

Do all of this and I promise you’ll get the last laugh when the season’s over. Do all of this and there’s no doubt you’ll become a master technician on the post, dawg. Do this, and you’ll finally quiet all the haters, make SLAM look stupid for demoting you three spots and get back into the top 5 where you belong.

Where should Dwight Howard rank in the SLAM Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13
44 Al Jefferson Bobcats C 9
43 David Lee Warriors PF 11
42 Jrue Holiday Pelicans PG 12
41 Anthony Davis Pelicans PF 10
40 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
39 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 9
38 Kevin Garnett Nets PF 8
37 Rudy Gay Raptors SF 8
36 Paul Pierce Nets SF 7
35 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 11
34 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 7
33 Al Horford Hawks C 8
32 Andre Iguodala Warriors SF 6
31 Brook Lopez Nets C 7
30 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 6
29 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 6
28 Damian Lillard Blazers PG 10
27 Josh Smith Hawks SF 5
26 Joakim Noah Bulls C 5
25 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 4
24 John Wall Wizards PG 9
23 Chris Bosh Heat C 3
22 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 5
21 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 4
20 LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 3
19 Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 8
18 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 2
17 Blake Griffin Clippers PF 2
16 Deron Williams Nets PG 7
15 Kevin Love TWolves PF 1
14 Dwyane Wade Heat SG 3
13 Paul George Pacers SF 4
12 Russell Westbrook Thunder PG 6
11 Tony Parker Spurs PG 5
10 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 4
9 Kyrie Irving Cavs PG 3
8 Dwight Howard Rockets C 1

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.