It’s been ages since I’ve railed on Dwight Howard… so let’s get this reunion party started, shall we?
There was a time in this website’s history where I would routinely bitch about Dwight Howard. As a (former) Orlando Magic fan, he was an easy enough target. He left our team high and dry with nothing but a new arena (they can’t fill) to show for it.
Flash back to the last time the Magic were relevant, about eight years ago, when Howard, then the face of the Magic franchise, was having his way with the rest of the league.
Howard having his way with the league, you mock?
That’s right. It actually happened. The year was 2009.
That Dwight-led Orlando Magic team dispatched of both a Celtics team that featured Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce AND LeBron’s Cavaliers (Volume 1) on their way to the NBA Finals. In the Celtics series, Dwight averaged 17 rebounds a game! Against LeBron, Howard averaged 26 points and 13 boards, including a 40 and 14 night in the closing Game Six. In a word, he was dominant. Neither of those two teams had any answer for the Orlando center. The Magic, who in retrospect weren’t really that good, rode Howard’s coattails all the way to the Finals. That is until he ran into Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson back when Jackson still knew something about basketball.
That season, Dwight Howard led the league in free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, total rebounds and blocked shots. It was his fifth year, and arguably his best, as a pro. Dwight was only 24 years old.
Shortly after that, Dwight became irrelevant. It was a slow road but it sure as hell happened. Sure, he made those kitschy slam dunk contest appearances wearing a cape and a smile but he never played in any other games as important as the ones he did back in 2009. Like another big man who had left a huge crevasse when he left Central Florida, Dwight ultimately took his talents to Los Angeles. He was supposed to bring another title or two to Tinsel Town but he and Kobe could not co-exist. Dwight was gone after one season.
He then left to Houston where he and James Harden were supposed to run things. Another laughable proposition. Last year, the Please Recycle Dwight Tour landed in Atlanta… where he averaged 13 points per game, half what he used to.
That Atlanta experiment, like the one in Los Angeles, lasted only one season. At least he didn’t get his coach fired on the way out this time.
Which brings us to my latest beef with Dwight. Damn, it feels good to lay into this underachiever again, like a warm apple pie on a cool autumn day.
This post-season, considering the Hawks were a non-factor (just like every team Dwight’s played on in the past eight years), he and his don’t-let-me-fool-you-I’m-actually-a-worthless-piece-of-shit smile, appeared on the set of ESPN’S NBA: The Jump to provide his “expert” analysis of the Finals.
During one episode, he and the other analysts talked about how the game had changed, how it was far more up-tempo and how the big men of today weren’t the big men of old. The position and those who now play it had evolved. Back to the basket centers are a dying breed; modern centers are far more mobile and even perimeter threats. Dwight even hinted that he’d be working on his three-point shot in the off-season to which many scoffed… and rightfully so. I mean, how is this guy supposed to hit a three-pointer when he can’t even make a free throw?
But more importantly, Dwight preached how he wanted to stay with the Atlanta Hawks, even finish his career there. You see, Dwight is from Atlanta. He went on and on about how much it meant to play for his home town folks.
It was almost, dare I say, believable.
This week, reminding us how completely full of shit he is, Dwight Howard signed off on a trade that sent him to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Miles Plumlee and Marco Belinelli. If I were to tell you ten years ago that the great and promising Dwight Howard was going to be traded for two relatively useless white guys, you’d assume the GM who did that was going to be put out to pasture. He probably got a key to the city.
Dwight is right about one thing. Today’s NBA is more-fast paced. The Warriors and their style of play are a big part of that. But I’d also argue that the game has changed because of a lack of quality big men, those that can control tempo and impose their will in the paint. Howard was that guy, that old school throw it down and let him work. His post moves were never refined but he was still a force to be reckoned with if the Magic decided to go that route.
Dwight was a guy once thought, if not transcendent, to be at a minimum one of the most game-changing players in the league.
Boy, were we wrong, both about his talent and about his character.
This is a man who openly got his coach fired. Instead of respecting the process, he wrecked a happy home. Neither Dwight Howard nor the man he got fired in Orlando, Stan Van Gundy, were the same after they left Central Florida. Van Gundy ultimately got a job coaching the Pistons but they’re not good. And as we’ve discussed, Howard is now playing for his fourth team in six years.
The interesting thing is that Dwight is not old. Sure, this will be his fourteenth season in the league but he’s only 31. The real problem is… Dwight never wanted to be great. He never had it in him. He’s not the first player with promise to come into the league and not live up to that potential. Being an all-time great center was just never that important to him. That’s why, at only 31, he’s useless. He has no desire to not be.
I thought I was over my Dwight-rage. After hearing him talk about how nice it was to be playing in his hometown, I thought for a brief moment that he had turned over a new leaf. A far more introspective Dwight had finally learned his place in the NBA’s time/space continuum. We could forgive, forget… and accept.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Don’t get me wrong. Atlanta’s probably relieved to be rid of this waste of space even if they got driftwood in return. Just don’t feed me lines about how good it is to be playing for Atlanta when you’re not in their uniform a week later.
Dwight could care less about which town he plays for as long as they have a bank there where he can cash his checks. He could care less about winning a title; it’s not in his DNA. If he really wanted that, he’d have wooed LeBron and pushed for a trade to Cleveland. But LeBron knows he’s worthless so why would he bother.
Had Dwight really wanted to, he would have controlled the league via the paint like Shaq did before him. But Dwight is no Shaq. Not even close. The only fair comparisons are the first two teams they played for and their lame Superman tattoos.
Do you think Shaq would have stood idly by while Golden State ran up and down the court? Of course not. He would have demanded the ball in the paint every possession until every single Warrior player had fouled out. Do you think Shaq would have complained about the league doing away with the center position in the All-Star Game? The NBA would never had done that with Shaq in the league because a) Shaq was dominant and b) Shaq gave a fuck.
Dwight never had that mindset. What he fails to realize is that he alone could have stopped that from happening. He allowed the game to change instead of taking it upon himself to shape it, which is what the great ones do.
Dwight is far from that. That’s why he is now irrelevant and dare I say obsolete. The only person he has to blame is himself.