Hawks Players Reportedly 'Screamed in Jubilation' After Dwight Howard Was Traded

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 26, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 19: Dwight Howard #8 of the Atlanta Hawks looks on against the Washington Wizards in the first half of Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Many were surprised when the Atlanta Hawks dealt Dwight Howard to the Charlotte Hornets in June, but the move may not have been a shock to those inside the Hawks locker room.

Speaking on his podcast, ESPN.com's Zach Lowe (h/t Dime Magazine's Jamie Cooper) said he had been told stories of "Hawks players learning about the trade and screaming with jubilation into their phones." Lowe added some Hawks players had grown irritated with Howard:

"You ask why, and one account was that Dwight would give these speeches before the game about how everyone is playing hard, we want unity, we're going to... and then go out and play like a blah game where he demands post touches and doesn't rotate as hard as he could. And everyone is like, 'Why are you speaking in the locker room?' But that's all anecdotal. It's just crazy how these stories come out after every stop in his career."

Drama followed Howard at each of his previous three stops before he signed with the Hawks last summer.

Former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy famously told reporters Howard had asked team management to fire him—a claim Howard denied to the same group of reporters moments later. Kobe Bryant didn't exactly speak of Howard in glowing terms after their one season together with the Los Angeles Lakers. And Howard admitted last summer he and James Harden didn't always have a great relationship when he played for the Houston Rockets.

Lowe's report provides more context as to why the Hawks jettisoned Howard—an Atlanta native—one year into his three-year, $70.5 million contract even though he had a relatively productive 2016-17 campaign. The eight-time All-Star averaged 13.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.

Leaving aside any problems between Howard and his teammates, the trade made sense from a basketball perspective as well. Atlanta likely saw the writing on the wall with regard to Paul Millsap, who signed with the Denver Nuggets as a free agent.

With a full-scale rebuild in effect, paying Howard north of $47 million over the next two seasons didn't make much sense for the Hawks.