There's a tendency in sports—and in all retrospective enterprises—to identify individual moments that altered entire courses of events. Such discoveries attempt to help us understand far more complicated circumstances; by definitively pointing to this or that as the moment when it all changed, we lend importance to arbitrary markers for the sake of understanding and closure.
Yet when it comes to the career of Josh Howard, one can't even attempt to pinpoint a single tide-turning event that triggered his downhill spiral. Howard's career has been too odd and too turbulent for such treatment, as the one-time All-Star has plummeted to his current place as a free agent afterthought.
Howard wasn't very effective at all in 43 games for the Jazz last season, but according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (via PBT) and Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports, he's drawn some preliminary interest from the Charlotte Bobcats, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls. It's a late look and may not result in a guaranteed contract, but such is the fate of a player as unreliable as Howard.
Charlotte and Chicago would likely be more favorable landing spots in terms of personnel and opportunity, but at this juncture Howard doesn't have the luxury of being selective. Successive injuries and a gradual change in playing style have marginalized his value on the open market, and made every bit of his performance an open question.
Teams don't simply need to wonder if his body will hold up over the course of a season, but also if Howard can maintain discipline in his defense and shot selection. Howard's progression beyond role player status allowed him to get ahead of himself earlier in his career, and the resulting package of irritating habits only made his time missed due to injury that much more difficult to stomach.
It's tough enough to take the good with the bad when it comes to players like Howard, but prolonged absences test the patience of all involved.
The fall has undoubtedly been difficult for Howard most of all, and perhaps a low-usage role with limited minutes can somehow put him back on track.
Once upon a time, a perceived slight—the fact that he fell to the 29th pick in the 2003 NBA Draft—fueled Howard's efforts as a defensive stopper and fill-in-the-gaps offensive player. Perhaps a stroke of humility, compounded by unfortunate injury after unfortunate injury, can now do the same.
There's a quality player left in Howard yet if his knees and ankles and wrist permit his release, and one can only hope for better luck and better performance for a player who was once such a joy to watch.
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