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 a year later the Hawks traded him and all those zeroes on his paycheck to Charlotte. 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. An NBA player who is tantrum-centric.
Now we hear that when the Hawks players, Howard’s teammates, found out he was traded, their was a lot of celebrating and high fiving and thank you Jesus. Howard has that thing about him. On the one hand he can be very inspirational just as he is aspirational. He can make the pre-game speech about unity and brotherhood and selflessness and being a warrior. He has an adolescent’s sense of humor and seems younger than his age. He looks the part of a physical player. And then you know what is coming. The complaining. The look on his face when he doesn’t get the ball. The nitpicking. Suddenly it is not about team, it is about Howard who feels entitled. He’s all into his feelings when he should be all into his teammates production.
Shocker that he leaves enemies in his wake.
But this still blows my mind. In 2009 Dwight Howard 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, Giannis Antetokoumpo, Hassan Whiteside, Al Horford, Jabari Parker, Kristaps Porzingis.
In 2016-17, 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.
Howard doesn’t have a country anymore. The NBA has washed their hands of big men with this new space the floor, shoot threes, run and play like a guard offense. So where does that leave Howard?
As far as centers go, Howard was ranked 23rd [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. Worse, Howard has no self awareness. He thinks he is a transformational player. His game says otherwise.
Howard replaced Al Horford in Atlanta. From the get-go it made no sense. Horford was a ball mover. He was pick and pop. He was the ultimate teammate: sharing, caring, supportive. Howard is passive-aggressive. He fears conflict and exhibits his anger in destructive ways that he thinks are sly. His game is archaic.
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. And he brings a lot of Howard haters, some of them teammates, along the way.
photo via llananba