Dwight Howard’s downward spiral into NBA oblivion

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard’s eight seasons in Orlando featured many accomplishments both for the Magic and for himself.

He led the league in rebounds per game four times and also led in blocks per game twice. In addition to all of the great things he did statistically, he is most known for taking the 2009 Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals by going through the defending NBA champion (at the time) Boston Celtics and a Cleveland Cavaliers team with a 24-year-old LeBron James leading the way.

Things seemed to be bright in Orlando for D12.

However, 2012 was the beginning of Howard’s downward spiral into oblivion. It started with an interview with Stan Van Gundy, the head coach of the Magic at the time. Howard came over interrupt Van Gundy’s press conference by putting his arm around him in a sign of peace.

There was speculation that the two weren’t getting along behind the scenes stemming from reports that Howard wanted Van Gundy fired. In the end, the player got his wish as Van Gundy was fired in May 2012. However, it turns out that Dwight Howard was also gone.

Three months after his former coach got fired, Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers as a part of a four-team trade. At the time, the trade had changed the entire complexion of the NBA. In addition to that, this change was the start of a downward spiral for the future Hall of Fame center.

Even the storied Lakers organization suffered through some of the chaos.

For the Lakers, 2013 was supposed to be another year where they would contend for an NBA title against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the defending champion Miami Heat. They already had Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and just acquired Howard and Steve Nash.

It was a superteam of epic proportions on paper. However, the production on the court turned out to be underwhelming.

The aging Nash battled through injuries all season long and right before the season ended, Kobe Bryant ruptured his Achilles. These two injuries ended any chance of the Lakers to make some noise in the playoffs. After finishing 45-37, the Lakers got swept in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs.

In the end, that Lakers team that was supposed to make it big ended up crashing to Earth. Kobe and Howard didn’t really get along and after the season Dwight decided to leave LA for Houston in free agency. He was set to team up with James Harden and become a fearsome duo in the West.

The 2014 season didn’t end well as Damian Lillard hit his most famous shot to send the Rockets packing in the first round of the playoffs.

While the 2015 season was better (they reached the Western Conference Finals), it was the up-and-coming Golden State Warriors that knocked them out in five games just to do it again in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. 

In the following Summer, Dwight decided to return to his hometown, Atlanta, to sign a three-year deal with the Hawks. His only season in Atlanta resulted in another first-round exit, this time in six games against the Washington Wizards.

Most of his numbers dipped to near-career lows especially in points per game. Then, the Hawks decided to trade the last two years of Howard’s contract to the Charlotte Hornets for basically nothing in return (Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee, and a second-round pick).

At first, it felt like Dwight Howard was finding his image again in Charlotte. He produced a lot of great moments including a 32-point, 30-rebound performance against the Brooklyn Nets.

However, the Hornets weren’t able to improve defensively and in the clutch. Coincidentally, Howard’s defensive rating (104) is tied for the worst of his career. The Hornets ended up missing the postseason with a 36-46 record for a myriad of reasons.

Speaking of the Nets, they are the most recent team to acquire Howard. They worked a trade with the Hornets in a salary dump. All they had to do was give up Timofey Mozgov’s contract (gold star for Sean Marks).

Who would’ve thought Dwight Howard, a future Hall of Famer, would be salary dumped to one of the worst teams in the league over the last few seasons? What’s even worse is that the Nets aren’t going to keep him as they are working to reach a buyout agreement with Howard.

Overall, all of these situations have one thing in common. Dwight Howard wasn’t liked by many teammates.

He was a part of controversy at every stop since his last season with the Magic. From asking out of Orlando to not getting along with Kobe Bryant and James Harden, Howard’s image and legacy have been stained.

It seems to a bitter end for one of the most talented and athletically gifted centers the NBA has ever seen. Even if he’s still got a few seasons left in him and even after all of the great things he’s accomplished, Dwight Howard won’t be missed by many players and executives.


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