Everyone expects Dwight Howard to opt out of the final year of his Houston Rockets contract this summer. And, while he was non-committal on that detail there were interesting takeaways from this appearance on the TNT “Inside the NBA” show.
With Shaquille O’Neal off with Ernie Johnson at the Emmy’s, Inside the NBA had Matt Winer filling in for Ernie Johnson and replacing the big man’s seat was another Superman, Dwight Howard. Of course the show is there to discuss the night’s games and topical situations in the Association.
Although I’ve seen various players guest on the show I can’t recall a time when analysts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith asked such poignant questions. Let me rephrase that, and say the two former players came at Howard with some hard hitting questions about his current situation, how he is perceived, his troubles in Houston and his future. And, they didn’t stop there
To wit, Barkley asked Howard why he thinks people don’t like him or have a negative perception of him. Barkley went on to say he understands given it can’t be fun playing with someone like James Harden who monopolizes the ball. As always Barkley spoke his mind, and I for one was happy he didn’t pussy foot around that topic.
Howard’s response was he thinks people saw his success in Orlando and how the situation ended left people with the opinion he was a diva. Howard said that really hurts him because his heart and drive have always been the same.
As for the issue surrounding what is an apparent inability for Harden and him to coexist Howard took the politically correct route but still answered fairly:
Politically correct: “Disinterested, I’m always interested in winning.”
Honest: “As a big, sometimes you want to feel a part of what is going on. If I could bring the ball up court, shot threes and go between the legs and all that stuff, that would be great. But, I have to rely on my teammates and certain aspects to get the ball” the latter being perhaps a veiled shot at Harden.
But, I have to rely on my teammates and certain aspects to get the ball
Howard went on: “There’s been times where I’ve been upset and I’ve taken myself out of games and situations that’s on me. And, I have to grow and be a better player. I’m always interested in the game.”
Further, Howard indicated he’s between a rock and hard place because he gets criticized for smiling too much and when he dials it back and doesn’t smile then he gets labelled as being disinterested.
Kenny Smith, who ironically was to meet with the Rockets management about their vacant Head Coach position offered Howard the advice of just being himself because then his talents will speak for themselves. Gee, is anyone else wondering if this timed appearance of Howard on the TNT set was just a tiny bit conspicuous as an opportunity for Smith to gain some leverage on that open coaching position?
Smith went on to suggest Howard focus on rebounding with the suggestion that could be how he can create his own offense.
As for what his offseason plans are Howard refused to bite on the obvious (that he’ll opt out), but did say he has already started to work out with the goal of returning to his former glory by dominating from preseason through to the end of the year (presumably meaning with a title or a deep playoff run.)
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The question is were these just words that were said to attract potential teams he’ll visit this summer? Were they meant for Daryl Morey to hear? Or was it simply his true goals?
Howard also said he was “pissed off by how the season ended, and again referred to the fact he and Harden should have been able to produce a better result this season and in the first round.
Arguably the most intriguing question was asked by Matt Winer who queried whether he and James Harden can play together. Howard started to speak to the misconception the 2 dislike each other which Winer cut off, saying no not if you like each other can you play with each other. This Howard response for me was the most telling as it seemed like he was indicating the issue lies with Harden’s inability to put ego aside:
"“ ” I think we can, I believe we can, but both of us have to put our egos and our pride to the side and say we need each other to win. That’s the only way we are going to win. He can’t do it alone and I can’t do it alone."
Barkley interjected that Harden and Howard don’t have to get along to win to which the big man responded “But you got to have chemistry on the floor.”
In the end, we probably came away with not much more insight than we had going into the night. What is known is logically Howard will opt out, and depending on how deep the fracture is between Howard and Harden, combined with who ultimately ends up with the coaching reigns will determine where the big man plays next season.
SCS will keep you posted on this and all other Houston Rockets news and happenings.
In the interim, make sure you check out our year end player reviews and draft prospect series. Coming soon a review of the upcoming free agent market with a view to who SCS believes should sit atop the Rockets summer shopping list.
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