Superman Comes Home: Dwight Howard returns to Atlanta

Dwight Howard is coming to Atlanta and this time, he’s not facing the Atlanta Hawks. The 30- year old center signed a three year, $70.5 million dollar contract. Hawks fans have asked for the team to upgrade their front-court and sign a big man that could handle the paint, make timely rebounds, and give opposing players caution when driving to the basket. Dwight Howard isn’t the most dominant, high flying defensive shot blocker in the NBA like he was during his prime; but he still can give the Hawks much needed help protecting the paint. Howard was drafted with the top pick by the Orlando Magic in the 2004 NBA Draft and became one of the best players in the league and was a phenomenal all-around player for a numerous amount of years during his tenure in Orlando. He won Defensive player of the Year awards in three consecutive years from 2009-2011. Another impressive stat is Dwight Howard was selected All-NBA First Team for 2008-2012 and led the Orlando while leading the Magic to a NBA Finals appearance in 2009 against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Atlanta Hawks faithful previously attempted to sign Dwight Howard signing with the Hawks during the 2013 Free Agency. 
Atlanta’s attempt to sign Dwight Howard and attempt to land Chris Paul fell through when Paul was traded from the New Orleans Hornets at the time to the Los Angeles Clippers. Also, Dwight made it known he didn’t want to play for Atlanta. Ironically around the same period is when Dwight’s career took a turn for the worst. Howard was labeled as a coach killer and was blamed for alienating locker rooms.  Due to a lockout, the 2011–12 regular season was shortened to 66 games. Not long after the lockout ended, Howard, who was eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season, demanded a trade to the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers or Dallas Mavericks. Howard stated that although his preference was to remain in Orlando, he did not feel the Magic organization was doing enough to build a championship contender. He would later meet with Magic officials and agree to back off his trade demands, but stated that he also felt the team needed to make changes to the roster if they wanted to contend for a championship. 
Deciding to leave the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t help his image either after reports emerged that he didn’t want to live in the shadows of the great Lakers big men. During the season, Many times Howard was upset that he was not getting the ball enough, and he felt that Kobe Bryant was shooting too much. Moving forward, Howard said he needed to “bring it” and dominate in more ways than just scoring .Howard finished the season with his lowest scoring average since his second year in the NBA, and he made under 50% of his free throws for the second straight year. However, he was the league leader in rebounding and ranked second in field goal percentage. Although he was recovering from his back surgery, he only missed six games all season all due to his torn labrum. Howard was named to the All-NBA Third Team after five consecutive first-team honors. He became a free agent in the summer, and could receive a maximum contract of five years for $118 million from the Lakers or four years for $88 million from other teams.

After signing with the Houston Rockets, Howard’s career was getting on track his first year averaging (19) points per game and grabbing (12) rebounds per game. However, a brash of injuries and what felt as if an organization that couldn’t get on the same page was just a bad fit for Dwight. One of the main reasons I feel that Howard was interested in coming to Atlanta is the credibility that head coach Mike Budenholzer has not only in Atlanta but around the NBA. With the signing of Howard, the Hawks fan base has mixed feelings, following the departure of Al Horford. Howard and Horford are two different players as far as their paint presence. With Al Horford, he’s a versatile and athletic center that can play power forward as well while Howard is your classic prototypical center. Critics point towards Dwight’s lack of an offensive game and how it will mesh in the Hawks system which requires Ball Movement and creating space for open shots. Critics,  what was the most crippling factor in recent Hawks playoff series losses? 

One of the biggest benefits to acquiring Howard is the dominant inside presence, during the playoff series sweep against the Cleveland Cavaliers this year, Al Horford was out-rebounded by his fellow center counterpart (Tristan Thompson) 44 to 14. With Dwight Howard, I feel 100% sure that the disparity of that magnitude would not be as great, in fact, the Hawks could have the edge in future meetings. With numbers like that at such a pivotal key factor in a game you simply cannot sustain winning basketball during post-season play. Although Dwight lacks in his offensive game to a certain extent, he provides the Hawks with an instant upgrade in defense and rebounding. The Hawks front office took a different approach this year choosing defense and rebounding over their typical offense and athleticism. There are two significant quotes I refer to when coaches discuss winning championships long-term… “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins’ championships” – Paul Bear Bryant “No rebounds, No rings” – Pat Riley. Riley and Bryant are two of the greatest coaches we’ve seen in College Football and the NBA so they know a lot about winning titles, so I praise the scrutinized decision the Hawks made and I applaud them for making a change that was unpopular. As a lifetime Hawks fan,  I’d rather lose and not make the postseason than continue sending the same roster out to only have the Eastern Conference Finals as their ceiling of success. Signing Howard probably won’t make us a championship roster next season, but I’m very excited for the future of the Hawks and with our new ownership and former NBA Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer, Dwight Howard should be a solid anchor for our frontcourt. #TrueToAtlanta
 Michael Thomas (@ChosenOne_MT10)

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Phil Veasley
Phil Veasley is a resident of Atlanta who has been a die-hard Hawks fan since 2005. He is Civil Engineer student at KSU. Currently, Phil writes for Atlanta Hawks Talk while also managing all ATLSportsHQ sites. He can be reached on Twitter at @_ATLPhil

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