First Kobe, Now Clint Capela in the Dwight Crosshairs

Everything, as they say, comes out in the wash. It was reported by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that the discourse and disenchantment and passive ugliness that tainted and ruined the Rockets season last year had to do with upper management, primarily Darryl Morey the Rockets GM wanting a Howard demotion. Les Alexander, the Rockets owner was in on it too. The strategy was to play Dwight Howard less, develop Clint Capela more.

Player development is an important structural practice when you have a young player you believe can, with experience, reach a high potential. But you don’t do it at the expense of your highest paid player. The way things go in the NBA, max players determine the culture, rules, values etc. But Dwight Howard being demoted says everything about Darryl Morey’s prize get in the 2013 off-season. He wasn’t what they thought.

Dwight to Morey: “I want to be more involved.”
Morey to Dwight: “No, we don’t want you to be”

Of course he wasn’t who the Rockets thought. He wasn’t who the Lakers thought either. He wasn’t who the Magic thought. It’s a riddle with no answer. The Rockets and Morey have no one to blame but themselves. Unless they lived under a rock, they knew the Dwight Howard baggage. The story. The history. The tantrums. The passive-aggressive whining behind the scenes while pretending he is happy. Howard isn’t particularly deep. He’s not complicated. He is immature (at times), gifted (at times), dominant (at times). When stressed, he reverts back to adolescent Dwight. How is any of this new?

If there is a joke to be had out of the Rockets mess that began with the firing of Kevin McHale, it is that Dwight Howard was sent his walking papers by Clint Capela. Who? I’ll give Capela his props. He is athletic. He can cover a lot of ground. He can rebound and his offensive game is in development. But when was the last time you heard of a developing player punk a 30 year old All-Star off a team? Kobe was one thing but Clint Capela?

2015-16 Minutes Points Rebounds FT% PER
Dwight Howard 32.1 13.7 11.8 48.9% 18.9
Clint Capela 19.1 7.0 6.4 37.9% 18.3

It’s clear that Darryl Morey figured out Howard was an above average center who wasn’t who he used to be in his glory years in Orlando. Furthermore, the Lakers myth that it was a Kobe-Howard problem proved to be a lie. Morey clung to it like a drowning man hangs on to a piece of floating bark; Morey wanted what he wanted.

But Howard always has issues. He sees himself as a happy go lucky guy. But every stop on the Howard train to the Hall of Fame has been conflict oriented because Howard brings that to the culture.

What is also true is that Howard had no say in the firing of McHale. You don’t allow a player to fire a coach and then demote him. It is also true that James Harden wields incredible influence regarding personnel. He wanted less of Dwight, not more. According to the ESPN story, Harden was on board with the demotion although it wasn’t his idea and he wasn’t a part of the strategic process.

When Shaq was traded the Kobe criticism was why didn’t Kobe go to bat for him in the front office. Well, why didn’t James Harden advocate for Howard? Hmm. Perhaps it was his idea?

Or maybe, because he is Dwight Howard. Howard is always complaining about touches and Harden is always dominating the ball.

In a way, this story clears Howard of his Houston narrative. He pouted. He quit. He wouldn’t cheer for James Harden. Yes. Yes. Yes. But he was sabotaged by the same organization that went through holy hell to get him.

An emotional Howard who takes every perceived slight personally was going to act like a three year old.

Darryl Morey is to blame. He didn’t understand Howard. Howard needs mass love and approval and acceptance. Otherwise he goes rogue. Howard ruined the Rockets last year. Harden ruined the Rockets last year. Morey ruined the Rockets last year.

Now Clint Capela and Mike D’Antoni are the saviors.

If only.

photo via llananba