Dwight Howard returning to play in his hometown was a huge story around the NBA and the city of Atlanta, when the signing was announced during the Free Agency. After three seasons, Howard decline his player option with the Houston Rockets and opted out of his contract after dealing with injuries, locker room issues, and obvious decline from his days as the best center in the NBA. Howard posted (13.7) points per game and fewer than (9) field goal attempts per game in the 2015-2016 season, his lowest numbers recorded since his rookie season.
Howard began the search for his next NBA destination and possibly his final NBA contract as well. The Atlanta Hawks received the first and final meeting. Howard took phone calls from other organizations, but never met face to face as he did with Atlanta. The Atlanta Hawks signed Dwight Howard to a (3) year, ($70.5) million-dollar contract. Howard’s signing received mixed reviews from the start, however when the regular season began, the city of Atlanta was excited to see the new look Atlanta Hawks.
The Howard signing by the Hawks was looking pretty good in the first few weeks of the season as the Hawks jumped out to a 9-2 record. The positive energy that was surrounding the team and the city was exhilarating. Watching the Hawks play their brand of basketball while enjoying the additional presence of a player of Howard’s caliber was amazing. The Hawks appeared to be considered as an Eastern Conference contender for the 2016-17 campaign. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, the Hawks success quickly faded. The finger pointing began for the Hawks inconsistencies and once again, Howard was the center of blame. However, it was unfair criticism considered the 31 year old veteran played as well as could be expected for a player of his age and size.
With Howard’s success, there was still struggles, in particular, Howard’s inability to create a shot at times received a lot of criticism in the Regular Season in the Playoffs against the Washington Wizards. So much that in several games in that series, he was on the bench instead of making an impact. Also, Howard was forced to guard the pick and roll and leave his comfort zone, the paint. Dwight is well known for being a dominant force in the paint and was a former Defensive Player of the Year as a shot blocker. Although some would say “His best days were 10 years ago” and although that’s his strongest asset to the Hawks would serve as defensive liability against John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Wizards.
Although the season didn’t end well for Howard, it was apparent that he was upset with the lack of minutes in the Playoffs saying he wanted to be on the court to help the Hawks win. However, the situation plays out Howard is under contract for two more years of guaranteed money and the Hawks haven’t received any type of offer they’d accept for him. So for the forseeable future, both sides need to work together in order to improve the situation for the sake of the team. The biggest question mark moving forward is how Budenholzer will make a more concerted effort to make Howard a bigger part of the offense.
Howard said in recent interviews that he’s planning to expand his offensive game, whether it’s working on his midrange or three-point shot. Either way, over the next few weeks, we’ll know the future of Dwight Howard in a Hawks uniform. Personally, I am optimistic that both parties can survive a seemingly drama free season and continue to improve and work towards the ultimate goal, a NBA Championship.
Michael Thomas: @ChosenOne_MT10