Desperately seeking Dwight Howard |

Desperately seeking Dwight Howard

A few years down the road, when Dwight Howard is asked to explain why he gave up tens of millions of dollars to leave the Los Angeles Lakers and sign with the Houston Rockets, he’ll probably resort to the answer usually given by Aspen tourists caught in a boneheaded moment: It was the altitude.

Yes, Howard, in the most closely watched NBA free-agent move since Lebron James three years ago, was at an elevation of 7,908 feet when he informed the world that he would be taking his talents to Houston and joining the Rockets (who, in a surprisingly good year, still managed to finish behind the disappointing Lakers in the 2013 standings). At least Howard didn’t go on live national TV to make the announcement; even altitude doesn’t explain that sort of error in judgment.

Not a fan of the Lakers or Rockets, I wasn’t intensely concerned with where Howard landed. But my daughter and I are hoops fanatics, and the combination of a real-life investigative search through the streets of Aspen and a chance of seeing, close-up, those massive shoulders of Howard’s gripped Olivia’s fascination. And mine. On Friday evening, we headed out to hunt for Howard.

We walked back corridors of the Little Nell, trespassed through fancy restaurants and wandered the pedestrian malls. For once my willingness to ask baffling questions of complete strangers didn’t completely alienate my 14-year-old. We reconstructed his itinerary from the previous night — Jimmy’s, New York Pizza, Escobar — and learned that his agent spends time in Aspen. Eventually the trail grew hot. Some acquaintances had seen Howard two hours earlier, heading out of City Market. On Cache Cache’s patio, we saw a sizable black guy, but his shoulders were only big, not Superman-esque. After 21/2 hours of sleuthing, we checked the news reports: Howard, they said, had left Aspen. And he had decided to sign with Houston.

Had we found him, I would have made my pitch for Howard to join the Denver Nuggets. The Nugs recently traded starting center Kosta Koufos, and though the plan seems to be to start Timofey Mozgof, I think we could adjust for the likes of Howard. Dude! Just think — a 25-minute flight to Jimmy’s, the gondola, endless NBA chats with Olivia and me. (But be warned: Jack Nicholson hangs in Aspen. Given what you just did to the Lakers, you might want to keep an eye out, lest he goes “The Shining” on you.)

There were two consolation prizes for our search. First, the Howard-less Lakers look like a second-rate team. Far better, Olivia wrote a report on our adventure and called the evening the highlight of her summer so far. Imagine — a 14-year-old girl spending her Friday night on an hours-long manhunt through town, and it’s not a lame embarrassment; it’s a highlight.

Thanks, Dwight.

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