After 12 seasons in the NBA, eight-time NBA All-Star Dwight Howard is headed home.
Howard agreed to a three-year, $70.5 million deal with the Hawks on Friday, which brings the 6-foot-11 center back to his hometown. Howard joins the Hawks after spending the past three seasons with the Houston Rockets. The 30-year-old Howard opted out of his contract with Houston on June 21.
When it came to where he would play in 2016-17 and beyond, Howard said the most tantalizing aspect of joining the Hawks was playing for coach Mike Budenholzer.
“I really love the coach,” Howard said. “I told him, this was three years ago, that I really liked his style and the way he approached the game. Just being able to get coached by somebody like that who’s really about trying to allow you to grow as a player has me really excited.”
Howard voiced his frustrations with his past season in Houston, which saw the team go 41-41 under two head coaches. He finished the season third on the team in scoring while averaging 13.7 points per game, and he pointed toward the team’s failure to win when it mattered as troubling. The Rockets lost their first-round matchup with Golden State in five games.
Howard could have joined Atlanta when he signed with the Rockets as a free agent in July 2013. So, what was different about the situation this time around?
“Three years ago, I was in a different place, and I think the organization was in a different place,” Howard said. “I think now we’re going to be great. I’m really looking forward to not just this season, but finishing my career at home.”
With winning as the forefront for both the Hawks and Howard, the move to Atlanta may also offer Howard a chance to redeem himself. While his play has stood out for years, he’s also been involved in a number of controversies, from reportedly wanting Stan Van Gundy fired while the two were in Orlando to his turbulent one-year stint playing with the Lakers.
“I think I’ve had some years where I played pretty good, but there were things being said that people looked at instead of the basketball,” Howard said. “It has upset me just to hear all the lies that I can’t control. This is a brand new team and a brand new situation.”
The very early indications are promising for the union.
Howard was described as being humble during the Hawks’ contract negotiations and having shown a willingness to follow Budenholzer and the coaching staff. He praised the Hawks for the structure they’ve established within the organization, saying it was something he needed to succeed. He also said he’s had no health issues whatsoever and has spent the summer working out in preparation for the coming campaign.
The Hawks have been in pursuit of Howard for quite some time now, and Howard has been looking for a place where he can win. Howard believes the future is bright as he tries to make his hometown return worthwhile.
“I’m really looking forward to this season and my time here in Atlanta,” Howard said. “I think it’s going to be my greatest years, and I get the chance to do it at home.”