Current Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard made an appearance on TNT’s Inside the NBA on Tuesday night, and although the biggest Howard heckler, Shaquille O’Neal, was absent from the set, things still managed to take an engrossing turn as Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley drilled Howard with a slew of tough questions ranging from his (expected) impending free agency to his on-court chemistry (or lack thereof) with James Harden.
Many people on my timeline were fascinated by what is now being donned as the “Dwight Howard Intervention,” including Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons who is a friend of Howard’s.
This is awkward.
— Chandler Parsons (@ChandlerParsons) May 11, 2016
Everyone has their own take, but I saw it not as awkward, bur rather riveting.
Howard has been one of the Association’s most maligned figures since the whole “Dwightmare” ordeal, and I think last night will be remembered as an intrinsic episode in the restoration of his reputation as he inches closer towards the tail end of his career.
When Howard was asked by Barkley if he was ever “disinterested” during games this season with the Rockets, Howard fessed up to psyching himself out of contests due to his lack of involvement on the offensive end. To many this may seem babyish, but when you glance at the stats, Howard may have had a legitimate gripe.
Howard was 5th in shot attempts per game on the Rockets this year, trailing the obvious suspect Harden, but then after that it gets surprising. Trevor Ariza, Michael Beasley and Marcus Thornton all got up more shots per night than Howard, who is supposed to be the imposing paint force to compliment Harden’s perimeter wizardry.
The problem is, stylistically, the Houston Rockets and Dwight Howard don’t mesh, as general manager Daryl Morey, a well-noted analytics advocate, has no issue abandoning post-ups in lieu of more three-point attempts. Houston likes to liftoff at warp-speed, and Howard, who’s once astonishing athletic ability has been zapped due to injuries, brings that pace to a screeching halt at times.
Howard knows this and recognizes that his smartest option not only from a career standpoint, but also from a financial one is to opt-out. As a guy who has dueled with health issues over the past few seasons, playing on a one-year contract (in Houston of all places where compatibility has obviously been an issue) would not be wise.
The NBA’s salary cap is also about to see a major uptick, and this may be Howard’s last chance to munch on a substantial piece of monetary pie as his career is on the back-nine. He wants to cash out just as everyone else does.
I’m enrolled in the school of thought that Howard has much more left in the tank than many believe, and I’m sure he’ll have several suitors once he elects to enter the free agent pool. Some watched the way Howard played in the Rockets’ first round series against the Golden State Warriors and began to heave the “washed” label in his direction.
He slowly scampered up and down the court, missed shots we’ve grown accustomed to seeing him make, and played as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Howard acknowledged that he cannot be so stubborn and let things such as touches sabotage his focus, but when you’re the defensive anchor of a team who exerts minimum effort on that end of the floor, and the main culprit is your team’s best player, frustrations are sure to amass.
The unequal distribution of the ball on offense irritated Howard, so he played as if he just didn’t give a damn, so that’s the perception he’s now inherited. That goes right along with what everyone else considers Howard: a baby, a quitter, a cancer, yada yada yada. People seem to believe dysfunction stalks him where ever he goes, but last night he said something that resonated with me. Something that made me believe it’s not always him.
“I’m always interested in winning.”
We’ve indicted Dwight for being invested in the extracurriculars, but that quote illustrated a lot to me. You can chalk it up as him uttering the politically correct thing, but there were a lot of different ways he could’ve answered that question and all the other ones thrown at him.
I appreciated Howard’s frankness and honestly I felt kind’ve bad for him. He’s been hammered by a hailstorm of hate over the past several seasons, and some of it may have been justified, but the guy just wants to play in a place where he’s valued and what he does have left can be extracted to put his team in the best possible position to win.
Howard needs to land on a team with a stable environment, good coaching and clear-cut leadership. He’s too advanced in his career to be squandering precious years on discord with his running mate. Let’s see whom it is Howard is interested in winning with come July.