Very rarely do I find myself siding with Mike D’Antoni.
His core principles as a coach go against everything I believe is essential in winning a championship.
His disregard for defense and propensity for relying on the three-point shot have ensured defeat endless times throughout his career.
Yet still I find myself siding with him. It’s a strange feeling. One that only a player as entitled and selfish as Dwight Howard could push me to.
What on earth happened? In less than a year, Howard has destroyed his reputation, possibly beyond repair.
We saw signs of this type of behavior during his time in Orlando. The endless waffling of whether he’d stay or go. The silly squabbles he had with Stan Van Gundy. His propensity to throw teammates under the bus. It was never Howard’s doing in defeat yet the praise was always there in victory.
We thought a change of scenery was all he needed. That a move to a storied franchise like the Los Angeles Lakers would push along his maturation. We were wrong.
The waffling has returned, this time with his statement that he is intrigued by the prospect of starting over (again) with the Houston Rockets, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles. The squabbles have remained, D’Antoni replacing Van Gundy in the coach's role. The excuses remain, this time with his declaration that he was used improperly.
The Rockets better think twice before dishing out a big contract to Howard. The Magic and Lakers should serve as cautionary tales about the perils of employing this one-time superstar.
When the going gets tough, Dwight Howard checks out.
For a man who is only a few years removed from garnering praise as the perhaps No. 2 player in the league, it’s been a long fall from grace.
The smiling superstar with the bubbly personality still remains. Yet the smiles are now through clenched teeth, the bubbly personality only surfacing when he is the focal point.
Dwight Howard has proven one thing throughout his career: If it’s not all about Howard, then you won’t get all of him on the court.
It’s not as if the skills that made him renowned throughout the league have left him. Even through injury, we saw glimpses of his brilliance.
It’s the baggage that he puts upon himself and those around him that have made him poisonous to a winning culture.
It really is sad. Howard has turned himself into the NBA’s version of Alex Rodriguez. Two supremely talented athletes who have destroyed their relationships with the fans and their teammates by putting themselves above all else.
We all know what Howard is: the most destructive defensive weapon the NBA has to offer (when motivated). We also know of his limitations on the offensive side of the ball.
Unfortunately for Howard, he craves the glory that offense brings and in the process diminishes what he does best.
It’s not Van Gundy’s or D’Antoni’s fault that they understood exactly what they had in Howard. They saw a player that could lead a team to a championship by being the anchor of the defense. They also saw a player who could make an offense better by staying within himself.
Howard, however, overestimates his offensive abilities. He sees his coaches’ acknowledgments of both his strengths and limitations as slights to him as a player. To quote the great Jack Nicholson, he can’t handle the truth.
Would you want Dwight Howard on your team?
The draw to Howard is obvious. He is an absolute force of nature. That is why someone, maybe the Lakers, maybe the Rockets, will throw him a max contract in the hopes that he realizes his potential.
For those that miss out on the Howard sweepstakes, they will eventually consider it a victory in defeat. For the team that does secure his abilities, well, the warning signs were there.
Unless Dwight Howard matures overnight, failure is inevitable. Fortunately for that team, he’ll probably ask for a trade after a year or two.
Whether or not there will be any takers at that point remains unknown.