Is Dwight Howard the NBA's Worst Teammate?
With no shortage of microphones extended his way during his first season in Hollywood, he's made sure his Lakers' script has been drama free. Well, free in the sense that the observers have had an easy time identifying the villain in the story.
Even with Kristine Leahy, an anchor for L.A.'s CBS affiliate KCAL, lobbing underhand softballs at Howard during a one-on-one interview, the big man still found a way to take a mighty hack at his former teammates and dig himself in a deeper hole with his current ones.
Howard rebuked the "coach killer" reputation that followed him out of Orlando—saying nothing of the fact that his former coach (Stan Van Gundy) and general manager (Otis Smith) were both shown the door just months before Howard orchestrated his own departure. Nor of the fact that his coach had gone on record confirming that Howard wanted him fired during perhaps one of the most awkward basketball interviews in recent history.
Howard went on to describe his former Orlando Magic teammates as a "team full of people no one wanted." Whether or not the two teammates that accompanied Howard from Orlando to L.A. (Earl Clark and Chris Duhon) were among the unwanted players was, not surprisingly, not asked of the big man.
His comments perhaps would have been more damning if not for the fact that Howard had already extinguished all bridges with the franchise where he spent his first eight NBA seasons. He reportedly nearly came to blows with co-captain Jameer Nelson in the final months of the 2011-12 season, who was said to be one of "several" teammates hoping that Howard would be traded (via Alex Kennedy of hoopsworld.com).
And he's seemingly brought on those same sentiments from his L.A. teammates.
He's repeatedly butted heads with incumbent superstar Kobe Bryant. Despite Bryant's enduring Howard's woeful free-throw numbers (career-worst 48.3 percent) and determination to involve the big man offensively far more than his stats say he should, Howard has been unable to find a common ground for the two.
Instead, he's chastised the five-time champion. He's reportedly mocked Bryant's shooting stats behind the former MVP's back, putting their teammates in a tremendously uncomfortable position (via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register).
He then clowned his teammate in front of several Western Conference rivals (and again behind Bryant's back) at All-Star weekend (via Ben Golliver of SI.com). He reportedly "grabbed Kobe’s uniform, put it on, and imitated him in front of all the other players on the West team."
Would you want Howard on your favorite team?
Maybe if the Lakers (30-30, ninth in the West) weren't in the midst of a grueling playoff race, or if Howard wasn't suffering through his worst season in seven years (16.1 PPG and 12.0 RPG), this could all be forgotten. Or, at the very least, it could make the team's performance trump its psychology in the press.
Things could very well be headed in that direction. His teammates may never like or trust him, but they'd be smart enough to keep their feelings away from the media.
Howard won't be short on suitors when he hits the free-agent market this summer, regardless of how many media missteps he takes between now and then.
But until he learns how to conduct himself in front of the watchful eyes of the media, he'll never see the same type of excitement coming from potential teammates that he'll get from league execs during his free agency courtship.
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