Once regarded as one of the league’s most marketable young players, Dwight Howard has supplanted LeBron James as the least liked man in the NBA. In 2008, while wearing a skin-tight Superman costume, a 23-year old Howard was able to slam dunk his way into the hearts of fans. His game had a childish innocence to it. He played basketball the way people remember playing basketball. Years removed from the politics, the practices and the pressure of performing, people tend to remember that basketball was mostly fun. Sure, they loved watching the Magic center post double-doubles on a nightly basis, but they especially loved his Stan Van Gundy impersonations, his wide smile and his positive demeanor.
Four years later, Howard finished his first season in LA in fitting fashion; he was ejected. LeBron James made an unpopular decision, but he stuck to that decision. Howard spent most of 2011-2012 flipping back and forth between staying or leaving Orlando. He wanted to leave. He knew Orlando was incapable of surrounding him with a supporting cast. Howard asked to be traded. When the fans turned on him, he quickly backed off his stance and played dumb. Here’s the kicker: Howard declined his opt-out clause and chose to opt-in for 18 million in 2012-2013. Of course, the drama was only just beginning. The backstabbing of Van Gundy leaked to the media. Howard demanded the coach be fired, but publicly denounced such actions. Finally, in May 2012, ownership fired the incompetent GM Otis Smith, as well as the lame duck coach, Van Gundy.
Rob Hennigan came over from Oklahoma City to be the new GM. When the pair met up in late June, Howard demanded a trade. However, Howard only wanted to be traded to Brooklyn. The Nets offered garbage in return for the big man, knowing that Hennigan’s hand was forced. Finally, after months of rumors and rumblings, a four-team trade was announced.
Dwight Howard could not have handled the situation any worse, but the sport gods have a way of giving 6’11” centers second chances. Instead of being traded to another struggling team, Howard would join Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the artist formerly known as Steve Nash in Los Angeles. What could go wrong?
This past Sunday, Howard left the Staples Center for possibly the last time as a Laker. While he vows to test free agency, many believe that his best bet is to re-sign with the Lakers for a max contract. However, would the maxed out Lakers want to pay a 270-pound complainer a max deal? Despite not fitting into their system, Howard clashed with Kobe Bryant’s “win or die trying” mentality.
That being said, unless you happen to be Nikola Vucevic’s mom, it’s tough to argue that Dwight Howard is not the best center in hoops. Andrew Bynum plays with his afro than a basketball these days, Joakim Noah is kind of a tool and Brook Lopez is never consistently dominant.
Howard would still make any NBA team better (sorry Mrs. Vecevic). He’s thrown more tantrums than two-year old, he’s coming off a shoulder surgery and now has teams questioning his maturity. Allow me to reiterate: he’s still the best center in the NBA. LA will make a push to sign Howard for a couple of reasons. First, they’re the Lakers, and they have a ton of money. Secondly, with Bryant’s injury, they really don’t have any other source of scoring next season.
Howard should spurn the Lakers and the extra cash that he would make by staying in LA (he can sign a 5-year deal with the Lakers, rather than a 4-year deal with anyone else). He’s like a troubled student; he just needs a new teacher to help him realize his potential.
I typically wouldn’t feel bad for a super-rich guy like Dwight Howard that has squandered his opportunities to be loved. This is America, though, and I think Dwight deserves one last chance at happiness. Superman needs to leave Los Angeles. Superman needs a new home, and I’m willing to help him find one. I’m super nice like that.
1) Atlanta Hawks: For years, people have rumored about Howard’s homecoming to the ATL. The Hawks will have roughly 40 million to play with in cap space. They could easily afford Howard’s max contract, while also retaining the services of his former AAU teammate, Josh Smith. Only one problem: The Hawks have Al Horford locked up at center. The only way this deal would happen, is if another team was willing to deal for Horford. Also, the cap-strapped Hawks would like to re-sign PG Jeff Teague.
2) Charlotte Bobcats: Just kidding. The Bobcats have a better chance of starting Mike Jordan than Dwight Howard next season.
3) Dallas Mavericks: Dallas was one of the original teams that Howard wanted to play for while he was in Orlando. Cuban would help him remake his shattered image. His presence would allow Dirk Nowitzki to play away from the hoop, and give the German gunner another run at a title. Plus, if it didn’t work, the fights between Howard and Cuban would be epic. Dana White, make this happen.
4) Houston Rockets: Picture a starting lineup with James Harden and Dwight Howard. The Lakers could sign Howard, and then they could trade him to Houston for some combination of Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin and Thomas Robinson. Would the Rockets be willing to part with Lin or Robinson? That’s the only question here. Howard would join a long lineage of star centers in Houston.
5) Minnesota Timberwolves: This one is purely for fun. Rarely in the NBA, do teams trade a franchise player for another franchise player. Kevin Love wants out of Minny, and a trade is inevitable. Love is only 24, played his college ball in LA and he was teammates with Kobe Bryant on the national team. Howard signs with LA, and then two teams swap forwards. Love isn’t a superstar on the same level as Howard, but it would give the Lakers a piece to build around in the future. A Rubio/Howard combo would make the T-Wolves a team to watch in the West.
6) Baltimore Bullets: The city needs a team, first… I’m beginning to think I’m the only one who wants this… Yup, just me. Whatever (dribbles basketball into sunset).
7) Portland Trailblazers: When looking at Portland’s roster, it seems like Howard would be the missing link. Damian Lillard was just named the NBA’s ROY, Nicolas Batum is freakishly athletic and LaMarcus Aldridge is a top 15 player when he’s healthy. Adding Howard to that rotation would allow Aldridge to play away from the rim, which may prevent future injuries. Also, their current center, JJ Hickson, is a free agent. This won’t happen, because who the hell wants to play in Portland?