The Hornets’ center will play in Atlanta on Wednesday for the first time since being traded to Charlotte.
Let’s not sugarcoat it: Dwight Howard’s single season in Atlanta was extremely underwhelming. Howard was one of the main contributors on the highly inconsistent 2016-2017 Hawks that were eliminated by a much better Washington team in the first round of the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at some reasons both to cheer him and to boo him on Wednesday.
Why he should be cheered:
1. He had a solid statistical 2016-17 season
While Howard was an easy target for fans to criticize due to his somewhat unfair reputation as a locker room cancer, many people overlooked the impressive statistics he posted with Atlanta. With averages of 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds, Howard was undoubtedly one of the better centers in the league last season. While he may have disrupted the Hawks’ offense because of his playing style, those are still decent averages.
2. He wanted to play here
The summer of 2016 wasn’t the first time that the Hawks and Dwight Howard had mutual interest. A discussion occurred in 2013 between Howard and new Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, but nothing materialized (probably for the better, as both the Hawks and Howard’s Rockets made the Conference Finals a year later). In 2016, however, the Hawks were craving a true big man after getting annihilated on the glass by Cleveland in the playoffs. Howard had moved on from Houston, so Atlanta made sense for him this time. Clearly, the Hawks had been on his mind throughout his time with the Rockets.
3. Atlanta is his hometown
For better or for worse, Atlanta raised Dwight Howard. He loves this city, and it will always be his home. This was made clear when Howard started getting emotional at his introductory press conference in his old high school gym. Howard also made a positive impact off the court while he was here, constantly making appearances at charitable functions throughout the city. He has love for Atlanta, and it only makes sense for Atlanta to return the favor.
Why he should be booed:
1. He ruined Atlanta’s offense
In Coach Budenholzer’s first two season here, the offense was defined by ball movement, even drawing comparisons to the Spurs’ famous offense. While this wasn’t so much the case in the 2015-16, there was still a good amount of motion in Atlanta’s offense that season. All of that completely came to an end when Howard came to Atlanta. A lot of this probably had to do with the departure of versatile players like Jeff Teague and Al Horford; however, there is no denying the fact that the ball seemed to stop every time it went to Howard. Often times, Howard would receive the ball in the post (a place where he is still not comfortable), and take a few dribbles before throwing up a wild hook shot while the rest of the team stood and watched. Howard certainly contributed to the drop off from where the offense had been in previous years.
2. His new shooting stroke never materialized
Howard spent a good amount of time during the summer of 2016 posting videos on social media of himself and his shooting coach working on his infamous jump shot. In the videos, Howard was seen making free throws with consistency as well as even hitting three pointers, with what looked to be much better shooting form than he had in previous years. Unfortunately, this new shooting stroke didn’t translate to games. During his season in Atlanta, Howard shot just 53% from the line, an unacceptable percentage for any NBA player. Hawks fans have a right to be upset about it.
3. He was pulled over the morning of a playoff game
Yikes. Where to begin? First, why was he out during the early morning hours of a playoff game? Second, why he was he going 95 miles an hour? And lastly, why was he driving without insurance on a suspended registration? All of this is inexcusable, especially on the day of a playoff game, and may have something to do with his benching in the fourth quarter later that evening during the Hawks’ season-ending loss to Washington. Sheer stupidity like this will rightfully enrage any fan, and I wouldn’t bet that Hawks fans have forgotten about Howard’s immaturity in this incident.
There’s a lot to consider, but in the end, I think Howard’s inability to knock down free throws along with his complete and utter lack of maturity that definitely contributed to the Hawks’ playoff loss are enough to warrant some booes. However, I won’t blame anyone who wants to cheer him; after all, Dwight is an ATLien and he is one of the city’s favorite sons.