- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2001

Juwan Howard is a tear-free person these days.

He is the No. 4 man with the Mavericks, and his days in Tony Cheng's neighborhood are nothing but a bad memory.

He is the fourth player behind Michael Finley, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, and it does not matter if he scores in single digits or disappears in the fourth quarter. He is not expected to carry a heavy load, and he obviously likes it that way.

Howard never wanted to be the No. 1 or No. 2 man in Washington. He only wanted to be paid like one. In Dallas, he is able to have it both ways. He gets to be the No. 4 man while drawing a No. 1 man's salary.

The money means nothing to owner Mark Cuban. If he is not buying 400 tickets in Salt Lake City and giving them away to those fans from Dallas who make the drive there, he is donating his excess cash to the NBA's top cops. Cuban made his money in the new economy and got out at the right time, and if he is not exactly right in the head, he is at least fun, especially when he is blowing kisses to Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

Sloan does not dance that way, and is easily riled on his best days, so you only can imagine his disdain for a man who is blowing kisses in his direction.

It is easy to overlook Howard in this environment, which probably is just as well.

Whenever people noticed Howard in Washington, he usually whined to the press that he was being treated unfairly.

Howard only wanted to be noticed if he completed a dunk in the first quarter and let loose with a primal scream to indicate that he is a very bad man. He did not think it was fair if people noticed his disappearing acts and booed accordingly. And maybe it wasn't fair. He is what he is, a No. 4 man who earns a No. 1 man's money, and it probably is a waste of time to dwell on life's inequities.

It probably isn't fair that an extremely tall person earns a ton of money, while an average-size person in your neighborhood is paid a relatively modest salary to risk life and limb in your interests.

If you have a thug in your midst, you call the average guy. You wouldn't call Howard, because if you called him, he would cry that life is not fair and would ask that you and the thug not boo him.

Howard played the sympathy card with the best while he was in Washington. He would cry, and then before you knew it, those around him would be crying, too, and there would be a big run on Kleenex. You always could tell where Howard was in the locker room by the chorus of sobs and the puddle of tears on the floor.

Fortunately, Howard no longer spends his days and nights wiping the tears from his face. He is with a young and exciting team, led by a goofy owner, and he is only too happy to be a No. 4 man, to make a few shots and grab a few rebounds and call it a career. It beats crying for a living, although his tear ducts were up to the challenge, the best there ever was in the game.

Howard sometimes was so busy crying before a game, he would be too exhausted to play. His energy level is up in Dallas, undoubtedly because he is not emotionally drained from crying. He no longer feels compelled to cry on cue, and you no longer have to be concerned about slipping on your keister because of the wet spot around his locker.

Howard was ejected in Game 1 of the Mavericks-Spurs series after committing a flagrant foul against Derek Anderson, and it probably isn't fair that Anderson separated his right shoulder on the play.

Howard did not cry because of Anderson's injury, possibly because Anderson was crying in pain and it would have been redundant.

Howard has done a considerable amount of crying in his career, and perhaps he is all tapped out. He has told reporters that his "prayers have been answered," and needless to say, he sure is pushy around God. You would think a person who has a $105 million contract would not find it necessary to burden God with more requests.

But who knows?

Howard just knows he is elated to be a No. 4 man. Look at him. He is raising four fingers skyward and shouting, "I'm No. 4, I'm No. 4."

And he is a No. 4 man, as legitimate as they come, and no one can take that away from him.

It's enough to bring a tear of joy to your eye.


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