As expected, Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard opted out of the final year of his contract ($23.2M) to become a free agent this summer, and rumor has it, he and the Orlando Magic are warming up to the idea of a reunion according to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report.
So the 8-time NBA All-Star, 6-time All-NBA and 3-time Defensive Player of the Year wants to return to the franchise that drafted him number one overall first pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, that he led to the 2009 NBA Finals while becoming its all-time leading scoring and rebounder among other statistical categories, four years after his “indecision” sent them into their current rebuilding spiral.
Sure. Okay. I guess that could make them a better team.
Let’s not get it twisted. This isn’t LeBron James returning to Cleveland after successfully chasing championships on South Beach, or Michael Jordan returning to the Chicago Bulls after a stint chasing his childhood dream—and his late father’s—of being a professional baseball player. James and Jordan both delivered a World Championship in their heroic returns.
But Howard’s story is the equivalent of an unhappy spouse who wanted out of his marriage to go be with his sidechick, because he thought she was prettier and would make him happier, only to comeback after realizing he walked away from the best he already had or ever will have.
Sure the Magic need a veteran with playoff experience, and desperately need one that could provide a defensive presence in the paint next to the offensive minded Nik Vucevic. But before central Florida gets its hopes up that their prodigal son can return to right the wrongs of his past, there are some questions that must be asked of and answered by the 30 year old (he’ll turn 31 during the season) with a body in steady decline after serious back, shoulder and knee injuries.
Is he willing to accept a role where he is not the first, second and maybe even third option? Is this for the long-term? Will he be a leader or the locker room cancer he’s been labeled? And like any jilted partner, can Magic fans trust him again?
This move makes plenty of CENTS for Dwight financially long-term and in terms of public relations. He spent the beginning of his offseason after the Rockets lost to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs on an image damage control tour.
But does it really make SENSE for him at this stage of his career, or for an Orlando team that has shown improvement over the last season, and is trending upwards after the blessing in disguise that was Scott Skiles resigning opening up the coaching seat for Frank Vogel?
I’m not trying to bash Dwight, but he’s no longer the self-proclaimed “Superman”, he’s more Clark Kent.
On a playoff team like the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets and even the most disappointing team of the 2015-2016 season the Washington Wizards, Howard could be the difference between a 4 or 5 seed in the East or a top 2 seed. On one of those teams that is hoping to challenge for the Eastern Conference crown in the next three seasons, he could be their DeAndre Jordan or fellow former defensive players of the year Tyson Chandler and Ben Wallace. Both of whom were key spokes on the wheel of championship teams.
The Magic are 3 to 4 years from being in the position of the teams I previously mentioned. Thus my point, neither really helps the other accomplish their overall goal. That is why at the end of it all, this reunion would be just… Ehh, and Magic fans should feel the same way.