The last time Dwight Howard was at this exact place, the last time a team wanted to get rid of him because Howard always wears out his welcome with his whining, pouting, finger pointing and immaturity, the last time a team was forced to call his bluff- Howard thinks he is teflon and nothing sticks to him- it was the summer of 2012. It was not mid-season, nor was it the Houston Rockets wanting to wash the Dwight Howard dirt from their hands. It was Orlando. It was after back surgery. Howard could barely walk. NBA games were not on the calendar. He was traded then.
There is a lesson in all of it, a warning to all newcomers who think Dwight Howard is a reincarnation of Bill Russell. It’s always complicated at the end when Dwight Howard is involved.
Three seasons and Dwight Howard has worn out his Texas welcome. He is a good player, not a great player, and yet he has the whims of the hyper-talented. His self accountability falls within the negative numbers range. When a team doesn’t perform, everyone is to blame but Howard.
With Howard, the hope train has left the station and is so far down the tracks, its near invisible. Gone are the expectations Howard would have developed a more well-rounded offensive game. Or, that he would have matured on the court, at the free throw line, in the paint. Or, that he would have grown up.
This season, he has served suspensions more than once. The first game of the season, his suspension was technical foul accumulation in the playoffs. During the season, it was whining and complaining about referees, making physical contact. Impulse control, even at the age of 30, is not a Dwight Howard trait. He leads the league in technical fouls.
Lakers fans don’t need to be reminded of this, of Howard getting thrown out of a playoff game against the Spurs, of his loss of composure in a close-out game when he was supposed to be the leader to fill in the Kobe Bryant Achilles void. Howard demonstrated who he was in that moment. But no one was paying attention
Houston is exhausted now. Howard does that, exhausts you. If he was having the kind of year Dwight Howard was supposed to have – 18 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks- the Rockets would have tolerated his childishness. But Howard is overwhelmingly average. His numbers are so bad (for him) you have to search for how long it has been since he has only scored 14 points a game, the worst in his career, other than his entry into the league in 2003-04. What has happened to Dwight Howard?
|On the Decline||Points||Rebounds||FT %||Blocks|
|2003-04 (Rookie Year)||12.0||10.0||67.1%||1.7|
Howard was the one who said it, no one forced it out his lips. He said: I have a better chance to win a championship with Houston (than with the Lakers). While his remark turned off a lot of Lakers fans who wanted Howard to either stay, or leave and exhibit class, a championship will not be on the radar with Howard as a Houston Rocket. The Rockets General Manager, Daryl Morey, is fully aware (now) of what he picked up in the summer of 2013, a cautionary tale, or as they say in the rural south, a dog that won’t hunt, or as they say almost everywhere, damaged goods.
Morey is in love with stars. He chased Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard before Howard was a Laker. When Howard’s Lakers experience alienated him from the franchise because he had venom for their best player, the Lakers were mournful. In retrospect, they should have been happy Howard rejected them so publicly. Howard saved them money, headaches and draft picks.
In the summer of 2013, Morey thought he had the piece to pair with James Harden in a Kobe-Shaq way. But Howard is not Shaq and James Harden is not Kobe. Three years and it’s coming to the end as the Rockets are shopping Howard. But who is going to give up anything for a player having the worst year of his career since he was a rookie?
Daryl Morey is planning on throwing the kitchen sink at Kevin Durant. As part of the recruitment pitch, close friend James Harden will make his passionate argument on how he and Durant can be a dynamic duo, like they were in OKC. Durant is not fond of Dwight Howard. With him out the way because Howard is opting out of his deal, it makes the Durant pitch that much easier.
Howard is making a ridiculous amount of money this year, $22 million, a number he won’t see again because this year has created a Howard narrative: he’s on the decline and it’s going fast. His on court behavior is still highly adolescent. In his tortured mind that plays games with him at seemingly every opportunity, Howard needs to be the star of a team. Otherwise, he always finds ways to not get along with the star of the team.
Only in fantasies is Dwight Howard an All-Star. He can’t be the best player on the team. If he is the best player, that team is heading towards the lottery. He has an inflated sense of his own worth. The teams contacted about a Howard trade are not. No Daryl Morey head-in-the-sand. They see the evidence of who he is. Not the best center in the league. Not the second best center in the league. Not the third best center in the league. Not the fourth best. Not the fifth best. DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan are all better than Howard. Throw in Hassan Whiteside and Howard comes in possibly the 6th best NBA center in a league that has gone small, not big.
Dwight Howard is a man without a country.
Morey had hoped the Celtics would cushion the Dwight Howard fall. But the Celtics, who have the Nets pick this year, aren’t giving that piece of luxury up for a declining player who will opt-out. He’s a rental at best. And a continual headache. No contender wants Howard. They don’t need him. No lottery team wants Howard. In the chase for Ben Simmons, they don’t need him.
These days, all you can get for Howard are bad contracts in return, a team’s mistake. Which is what Howard ultimately is for the Rockets, a Daryl Morey mistake.
So here he is. On the outside, and on the inside. He’ll more than likely stay with the Rockets the rest of the season because the Rockets over estimated the Howard mystique. He’ll leave via free agency and sign somewhere like Portland who really could use his inside presence. But a note needs to be attached to whoever signs Howard this summer, written in ink, in bold red letters.
In three years, if not sooner, it’s going to fall apart.
photo via llananba