At this point, it’s getting difficult to remember just how good and dominant Dwight Howard was in his early 20s. That’s nearly a decade ago. In case you’d forgotten, he entered the league straight out of high school, and this 4-year span was basically equivalent to what Patrick Ewing did at the same age:
2006-2007, age 21: 17.6 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 1.9 bpg
2007-2008, age 22: 20.7 ppg, 14.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg
2008-2009, age 23: 20.6 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 2.9 bpg *Lost NBA Finals
2009-2010, age 24: 18.3 ppg, 13.2 rpg, 2.8 bpg
Howard was still approaching his prime and already the most dominant center in the NBA, inhaling rebounds and swatting shots.
Then he got selfish. His all-candy diet couldn’t have helped. He grappled with the idea of whether or not to stay in Orlando. He feuded with coaches. If you’re looking for a tipping point, it was around April 2012, when he tried to get well-respected coach Stan Van Gundy fired in Orlando.
His career never recovered.
Next stop: Houston. Things looked promising in Year 2 when they reached the conference finals, but in Year 3, Howard got in a squabble with James Harden.
Next stop: Atlanta! Probably his final stop, given nobody had interest in Howard when Houston shopped him to the league. Howard’s only 31, and though he’s had some injuries the past five years, he is still a double-double machine (averaged 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds in a career-low 29 minutes per game).
After the Hawks were dusted by the Wizards, here’s what Howard told the AJC:
Howard is not happy. The day after the Hawks were drop-kicked into the offseason by Washington, he used the word “pissed” three times to describe his feelings about the way both his and the team’s the season ended.
“It was very difficult,” Howard said Saturday. “I want to play. I want to be out on the floor. I want to make a difference. I want to make an impact, and I can’t do that on the bench.”
The Hawks won’t be able to trade Howard for much. The league has changed. Rapidly. If you can’t defend the pick-and-roll, if you can’t shoot, if you can’t get along with teammates or coaches … you’re probably not long for the NBA.
It wouldn’t shock me if Howard left the NBA, sooner than later.