Tracing How Dwight Howard Became the Spoiled Star He Is Today

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2012

Tracing How Dwight Howard Became the Spoiled Star He Is Today

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    Remember when Dwight Howard said all the right things?

    It really wasn't that long ago in fact.

    In March, 2011, he suggested that Orlando was indeed the best place for him, at least at that apparently brief moment in time. He even appeared to contrast himself with the superstars of his generation (via the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins): 

    "I don't want to say you have to team up with another great all-star in this league to win a championship. I think it takes a team to win. If you get hot at the right time, it doesn't matter if you've got three all-stars or four. You can still get beat."

    Here's to hoping he gets traded to the Los Angeles Lakers just so some snarky reporter can ask him how he feels about playing with all those All-Stars now.

    Ever the disingenuously scripted product of PR expertise, Howard has done his best to say the right things. In his eagerness to prove he was no LeBron James, he's become something worse: a fake.

    There was something almost virtuous about James' dumbfounded shamelessness, the utter incredulity he expressed toward the notion that he was now a bad guy. When you're coddled by yes-men and exploitive opportunists since high school, it's not hard to imagine a moral compass withering away while "winning" assumed its predictable place atop James' values.

    But, Howard knows better. We can forgive those who know not what they do, but can we forgive a guy who knows exactly what he's doing and does it anyway?

    Perhaps.

    Perhaps even Howard has a history that explains how he came to be what he is today. Whether that history is forgivable is for you to decide. 

The Fickle Desires of a Superstar

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    As trade rumors heated up in December of 2011, it also emerged that Dwight Howard really didn't know what he wanted.

    According to ESPN's Marc Stein and Chad Ford, the big-time star center was also becoming something of a big-time waffler:

    Howard himself is known for changing his views on the matter on a near-daily basis, torn by his desire to move to a more glamorous market such as Brooklyn or Los Angeles, and the prospect of staying with the team that drafted him and delivering the championship to Orlando that Shaquille O'Neal could not. 

    If this whole basketball gig doesn't work out for the guy, at least we know he has a career in politics waiting for him.

    Though Howard's feelings have since become rather unambiguous, there's no doubt his initially wavering sentiments got things off on the wrong foot–indeed, the worst possible footing one could imagine.

    You can certainly blame the Orlando Magic for struggling to find themselves on the same page as their franchise player, but reaching that kind of mutual understanding isn't easy when said player didn't know what page he was on to begin with.

    Whether the root of his flip-flopping was strategic posturing or genuine uncertainty, the result was a painfully indeterminate season in which Orlando's fans were left hanging.

Going Public with His Demands

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    Despite his initially flip-flopping, Dwight Howard had officially run out of patience before the 2011-12 season even began.

    And, unfortunately, he did so publicly.

    Making this mess a matter for public consumption was Howard's first mistake, and it's had long-term consequences. Had these things remained an in-house affair, chances are present-day trade negotiations wouldn't be such an uphill battle.

    More importantly, Howard stabbed his teammates in the back.

    By making things public, the 2011-12 season was a non-starter. No one cared about how the team did. They only cared about whether Howard would be moved before the trade deadline, where he might go and if there were any chance he'd stay.

    Everything else became an afterthought. 

Life as a Player-GM

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    Dwight Howard's trade demands were accompanied by an airing of managerial grievances.

    He explained in no uncertain terms that it was because he didn't get his way (via ESPN's Brian Windhorst):

    "The stuff that I have asked for, the stuff I felt our team needed to get better, none of it has happened," Howard said. "That's not me being cocky but I want to be involved with the organization. I've been here for a long time, I don't want to sit around."

    Of course, to hear former general manager Otis Smith explain things, the organization had indeed consulted with Howard on a number of fronts. He suggested that, for one reason or another, a number of things on the star's wishlist just didn't make a lot of sense.

    Imagine that.

    That's not to say Orlando was at all successful in its attempts to surround Howard with championship talent. But, there's also something to be said for the fact that the franchise's hasty, win-now transactions were the result of their franchise player exerting some pressure.

    They were also ill-advised.

    There's simply no good explanation for trading away a guy with a mid-range jumper (Brandon Bass) in order to land Howard's buddy Glen Davis, who struggled mightily to coexist with another big man who needed to do all his work in the painted area.

    You have to imagine this club would be in far better shape going forward had it not taken a short-term approach to a roster that simply wasn't easy to improve over the short-term.

The Stan Van Gundy Debacle

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    There's little doubt in any reasonable person's mind that Dwight Howard had pushed for the ousting of former Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy.

    It wouldn't make a lot of sense for Van Gundy to confirm reports saying just that if there weren't some merit to them.

    Nevertheless, Howard availed himself of a "chance encounter" with TMZ to set the record straight, and sadly a number of people probably believe him. Anyone with a remotely well-tuned BS meter should know better after watching the guy squirm when initially asked about the subject (immediately after Van Gundy commented on the matter, no less).

    Let's be clear. Howard's denial is only part of the annoyance here.

    Trying to get your coach fired is never especially endearing, especially when it obviously wasn't that coach's fault that the team was regressing.

Now He's Just Being Rude

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    New Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan insists he was just trying to build some rapport with Dwight Howard, and that's perfectly understandable given the history this guy inherited. It wasn't a mess of Hennigan's making, but he's been charged with trying to clean it up.

    So, how does Howard respond?

    Predictably.

    He reiterated his demand for a trade and according to ESPN's Ric Bucher, blew off whatever kind of overture Hennigan was in fact making:

    "I already heard that from the other guy on the phone," said Howard, according to the source.

    Now he's just being obstinate.

    Chances are Hennigan will take the Magic in a radically new direction, cultivating the sort of franchise the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder built from the ground up. If Howard doesn't want to be part of such a renewal, so be it.

    He doesn't deserve it anyway.