The moment we all read the headline late last night and early this morning, mixed emotions set in.
Dwight Howard. Superman, the diva. Man this guy is talented and would be an extremely valuable asset, but he's Dwight Howard. You know? The guy that was the center of controversy for being all about himself and ruining team chemistry at each of his first three stops? Do we really want to chance it on a team with an unbelievably stable locker room?Story online soon with @Chris_Broussard: ESPN sources say Dwight Howard has set up free-agent meetings after July 1 with Atlanta and Boston.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 29, 2016
To put it simply, yes, yes we do.
Howard could be a game changer for the C's. For a 48-win team with a mediocre front court consisting of Tyler Zeller, Amir Johnson, Jared Sullinger, and Kelly Olynyk, having an elite rim defender with unbelievable athleticism could make the difference in a deep playoff run.
In a down year, he averaged 13.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, and 1.6 BPG last season with a PER of 19. Hassan Whiteside, the man that will be receiving a lucrative max contract this offseason, averaged 14.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, and 3.7 BPG. Oh, and by the way, Whiteside is 27, just three years younger than Howard.
At 30 years old, Howard still has a lot left in the tank, and fills a void Celtics fans have been craving for years. He's deadly off the pick and roll, rebounds with the best of them, and provides the team with an elite rim defender. After countless fans begged for Nerlens Noel on draft night, bringing in a proven commodity with a more elite skill set would be a great move, right?
The glaring flaw in his presence really has nothing to do with his ability at all, rather his reputation in his seeming disinterest in the game, lack of motor and drive, and a prima donna attitude that has sparked controversy in the locker room over his 12-year career. Both fans and analysts have used his off-court issues that have translated onto the court as talking points for years, and it certainly won't be slowing down with Howard's free agency set to begin on Friday.
But where exactly does this chemistry-killer reputation stem from?
In Orlando, he was the face of the franchise that was right on the cusp of winning a ring. He had talent around him, but no one necessarily "elite" to help carry the weight. When their window of opportunity for a championship was obviously closing, he voiced his frustration. He admittedly liked Orlando, but wanted elite talent put around him and it just didn't happen for one reason or another.
In LA, expectations were through the roof to succeed from the start. Kobe and Dwight reportedly had a rough relationship due to Kobe's tough-love mentality in the locker room, which translated to on-court issues. Chemistry never seemed to gel, which resulted in losses during the season. With Howard becoming a free agent the following off-season, it made for an ugly exit for both sides.
Playing for the Rockets, he was in a flawed system with instability on the coaching staff. With James Harden running the show, there was little ball movement, and the only offense that was run through Howard was on a pick and roll every once and a while and when he managed to grab offensive rebounds. He admitted it was a system that didn't fit his style of play, and when he approached management about a bigger role with the team, he got shut down.
In an interview with ESPN's Jackie MacMullan, this is what Howard had to say.
"I felt like my role was being reduced. I went to [Rockets general manager] Daryl [Morey] and said, 'I want to be more involved.' Daryl said, 'No, we don't want you to be.' My response was, 'Why not? Why am I here?'
Needless to say, a breakup with the Rockets was bound to happen sooner rather than later.
This offseason, Dwight went on TNT's Inside the NBA and was confronted about the negativity surrounding his reputation, and he admitted there were things he needed to work on to revamp his image. Charles Barkley mentioned how disinterested he looked in Houston, to which he responded "Disinterested? I'm always interested in winning." The situation in Houston largely fell in the hands of upper-level management, but Howard certainly didn't help his cause.
If he wants to return to status amongst the elite, he has a great bit of maturing to do this offseason. In a winning environment with stability throughout management and the coaching staff? I think we'd be looking at a different situation altogether.
Back in 2012, Howard was asked about his thoughts on the Celtics and if he'd ever consider signing with them. His response was very positive, to say the least.
“I’d always listen to a team like that."
“My thing is I want to win. It’s not something like I’m doing this for money. I win. I want to do it my way.”
“I want to win a championship, and it takes a certain type of team to win a championship. You know, there’s a lot of teams who are great during the regular season. They play well, but it’s different once you play in those playoffs, you know? It’s gut-check time."
“They have the championship mentality,” he said of the Celts. “It means a lot. Like I said, I like the team. They play hard and they go after it, and that’s what I like.”
According to NY Post's Frank Isola, Boston reached out to Houston regarding a trade involving Howard at the deadline last season, proving that there is certainly interest there on the C's side of things. How much interest, even with a meeting with the big man secured, is unknown.
This afternoon, Adam Himmelsbach showed us the meeting with Howard may be just to test the waters with him, rather than an all-out pursuit.
Regardless, there's reason for optimism if we do, indeed, sign Howard. If the price is right and it's not a long-term investment, there's major upside to bringing "Superman" to Boston.Regarding Dwight Howard, hearing that right now Celtics have no plans for aggressive pursuit. Will always listen to see if a price is right.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) June 29, 2016
Jack Pilgrim 6/29/2016 05:00:00 PM Tweet Edit