Hornets big man and one-time superstar Dwight Howard has started to try to buff up his image after his once-beaming career went completely off the rails. It’s to the point that the Hawks, who signed him to a three-year, $US70 ($A88 million) deal a year ago, shipped him and a draft pick to the Hornets for scrap (sorry, Miles Plumlee and Marco Belinelli) in June.
In a lengthy cover story for Sports Illustrated, Howard revealed just how exactly his career got away from him shortly after he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2004. Once a quiet, devout Christian, Howard succumbed to the NBA’s temptations of fame, feeding off the fruits that the league tends to offer. But that life didn’t work, as Howard fell from the top of fame’s totem pole into the hobbled mess that brands him today. Howard further referred: “It’s like, ‘I’ve heard so much about these clubs, these strip clubs, let’s try ’em out. Let’s party like these older guys. I lost confidence in who I am as a player. I’d hear people say, ‘You should play more like Shaq,’ so I tried to bully guys. But that didn’t work because I’m not as big as Shaq. Then I’d hear people say, ‘You smile too much, you should be more like Kobe,’ so I tried to put on a mean face and play mad. But I wound up getting all these stupid techs and flagrant fouls.”
Howard spent just one year in Los Angeles before signing a max contract with the Houston Rockets. But his struggles on the court and off with teammates and management turned Howard “miserable” to such an extent that the eight-time NBA All-Star considered retirement after a troubling 2014-15 season. Howard played just 41 games during the 2014-15 season due to knee problems and registered less than 30 minutes per contest. He stuck around for one more season in Houston before inking the three-year deal with the Hawks in 2016. The 31-year-old has two years left on the three-year deal to prove how he’ll be viewed for the rest of his NBA career.
If not for a phone call late in the free-agency process, Andre Iguodala may have been wearing a Rockets jersey for the 2017-18 NBA season. The Warriors do-it-all swingman nearly left Golden State to join Houston this summer, because Iguodala was “dissatisfied” with Golden State’s initial offer. As vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, Iguodala knew he needed to set a good example and maximize his worth, especially after signing a relatively cheap four-year, $48 million deal with the Warriors in 2013.
At the beginning of the 2017 free-agency period, the Warriors offered a three-year, $36 million deal, but Iguodala and his camp weren’t going to accept less than $16 million annually. Iguodala was prepared to leave the Bay Area, meeting with the Lakers, Spurs, Kings and Rockets in the early hours of July 1, per Haynes’ report. The Rockets’ presentation blew Iguodala away. It included a call from James Harden, who wasn’t aware a meeting with Iguodala was taking place and had reached out to general manager Daryl Morey for a different reason, and a surprise appearance by Chris Paul, who had joined the Rockets only four days earlier. Iguodala only planned to sit down with Warriors coach Steve Kerr and general manager Bob Myers after talking to the Rockets to tell them he was leaving. Following the hour-long sitdown, it seemed as though Iguodala was already on his way to Houston. So, how did the Warriors actually get him back? Iguodala’s agent, Brandon Rosenthal, made one final call to Myers to ask if there was any way to increase Iguodala’s salary. Myers called Warriors owner Joe Lacob and was able to keep Iguodala with a three-year, $48 million contract. While it felt like Iguodala never truly wanted to leave the Warriors, teaming up with Harden, Paul and the rest of the Rockets must have been enticing. Small-ball lineups with combinations of players like Harden, Paul, Iguodala, Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza could have been potent defensively, particularly with a rim protector like Clint Capela, and the offense certainly wouldn’t have lacked any explosiveness. But at the end of the day, the Warriors kept their core together because the Warriors decided no one else in the NBA can have anything nice.