Luck has never been on Dwight Howard’s side particularly when Howard picks up stakes and moves to another team and city hoping for redemption. In 2012, Howard was traded from the Magic to the Lakers. His first season in L.A. the Lakers were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Spurs and in game 4 Howard was ejected. He signed with the Rockets as a free agent in the summer of 2013 and his first season he lost in the first round of the playoffs when Damian Lillard made an incredible clutch three to send the Rockets packing. The next year the Rockets were sent on vacation by the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. In the playoffs in 2016, the Rockets lost in the first round.
Howard opted out his contract and signed a free agent deal with the Hawks and now the Hawks have traded him to Charlotte after only one year. And so the beat goes on. But this time it feels a little bit worse. The Hawks traded Howard for spare change, Miles Plumlee and not much else. Howard has become the punchline to a joke, an afterthought, an average NBA player who goes from team to team to team.
Howard is going backwards, not forwards. In 2009 he was in the NBA Finals. He has been to a conference final twice in 7 years. He has lost in the first round five times. (He didn’t appear in the playoffs in 2012 because of back surgery).
After his 2009 NBA Finals, Howard was an All-Star for the next five years but has not been an All-Star in a three year drought. The Eastern Conference forward/centers better than Howard are LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Giannis Antetokoumpo, Hassan Whiteside, Al Horford, Jabari Parker, Kristaps Porzingis.
This season he played a career low 29 minutes a game. His 5.2 field goals was tied for a career low. His free throw shooting, never great, was 53.3% which was better than his past two seasons. He was back to Howard the strong rebounder. 12.7 rebounds but far from his career high of 14.5 rebounds five years ago. His blocks were off his career high of 2.9; he’s lost explosiveness. His 13.5 points was the lowest production since his rookie year. His offensive rating was a career high 115. His defensive rating was a Howard-like 100.
But the playoffs were humiliating. He was benched in the 4th quarter as the Hawks went small. He was replaced by Mike Muscala. He had to watch the Hawks lose, get tossed out the first round by the Wizards. It is one indignity after the next for the former best big man in the game.
As far as centers go, Howard was ranked 24th [Real Plus-Minus] when measuring on-court impact, trailing a whole bunch of centers like Marc Gasol (Grizzlies), Rudy Gobert (Jazz), Lucas Nogueira (Raptors), Al Horford (Celtics) and even Marreese Speights (Clippers).
Like all NBA players, Howard repeatedly says he is playing for a title. But then Howard signed with the Hawks last summer. They didn’t wait long before dumping him, this, his hometown team.
The Hawks were not committed to Howard as promised. They lied. But hasn’t Howard lied? Hasn’t he given less, done less, fought for less?
This always happens to Dwight Howard. While Kevin Durant seemingly can go from perfect situation to perfect situation, Howard always has bumps in the road. The critics blame it on Howard’s game and approach. He sees himself as an offensive star when he is a defensive player and an offensive afterthought. Then again, Howard goes for the money and when you do that you face the reality of not going to the best team. When you don’t want to take less money, you pay a long term price.
Howard replaced Al Horford in Atlanta. Hoford went to Boston. The Celtics with Horford went to the Eastern Conference Finals. Howard still remains a cautionary tale of what happens when you live in a glass house and you think the grass is greener somewhere else. At some point the road stops getting bumpy. The road just stops.
Howard is not there yet, not at the end. But he keeps inching closer and closer to the finish line.
photo via llananba