ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Charlotte Hornets are trading Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets. This shocks ... well, no one.
If you’re keeping score, Howard will be working on his sixth organization since 2012, his fourth since 2016. The player who styled himself as Superman has become Disposable Man. It’s the same everywhere he goes: He arrives saying he’s changed, and he exits shortly thereafter with a relieved former employer saying, “Good riddance.”
It happened here, you’ll recall. In the summer of 2016, Howard was welcomed home – he’s from Atlanta – with an elaborately staged celebration at the gym he frequented growing up. He famously wept on the dais. He was gone 11 months later.
Now he’s gone from Charlotte. He’ll soon by gone from Brooklyn, although the Nets would seem the Last Chance Saloon for him. He has worked his way through 20 percent of the league’s team. He’ll probably end up in the Naismith Hall of Fame, but for now he’s a punchline.
If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that even the biggest of talents cannot stop evolving. Howard became a franchise center by doing the stuff that passed for franchise centering – rebounding, blocking shots, dunking. He never learned to shoot, though, and he wasn’t much of a passer. (Note: Just for the heck of it, Wilt Chamberlain once led the league in assists.) Then the game, er, passed him by.
The rest of the league went smaller and started doing the pace-and-space thing, which meant there was less demand for someone who clogged the lane. That he couldn’t shoot free throws made him a liability at the end of games. His Hawks career, such as it was, ended with him on the bench for the fourth quarter of a playoff loss to Washington.
Something similar happened to Shaquille O’Neal at the end of his career, moving from Miami to Phoenix to Cleveland to Boston in less time than it takes to write, “Miami to Phoenix to Cleveland to Boston.” There were, however, two differences: Shaq already had four NBA titles, and he was mostly (though not always; ask Kobe) a good teammate. Howard has no NBA titles – he made one finals run with Orlando – and is a terrible teammate.
Which is why he can’t find a team that can stand him for longer than a year. He’s an old-fashioned center in a newfangled age, yet he carries himself as if he’s still the Man of Steel. His numbers never look bad – he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds with Charlotte – but he proves to be more trouble than he’s worth.
He’s still only 32, younger than LeBron James, but it’s not hard to imagine a time very soon when the man once feared far and wide – Mike Woodson was fired by the Hawks because he insisted on double-teaming Howard in a playoff series the Hawks lost by aggregate 101 points – will be out of work. He’s no longer anything special. He hasn’t been for a long time. He’s just a bad contract for some rebuilding team to eat, and his contract is up after next season.
The NBA having been around since 1946, it’s possible there has been a bigger name who has fallen farther and faster than Dwight Howard. I can’t remember one, though.