With the Houston Rockets in need of a center, should general manager Rafael Stone turn to a familiar face to fill that need?
Prior to the Houston Rockets pairing James Harden with Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, he played alongside former star and future Hall of Famer Dwight Howard. When the Rockets signed Howard there were immense expectations, as Howard had won three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards and led the league in rebounding in five of the previous six seasons leading up to his arrival, not to mention leading the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals.
Although the pair had alot of hype to live up to, they largely fulfilled the expectations. The superstar duo finished with the second seed in the Western Conference during the 2014-15 season, leading to a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
The Rockets were dismantled by the Golden State Warriors, as the eventual champions eliminated the Houston Rockets within five games. All in all, the Harden and Howard pairing resulted in three consecutive postseason appearances and a top-five finish in the Western Conference in two of Howard’s three seasons with Harden .
Harden and Howard had their fair share of problems, as it was reported that they had friction, leading Howard to exercise his player option and depart from the franchise after just three years with the Houston Rockets. The fact that Harden and Howard had tension shouldn’t be a surprise, as this happens with almost every NBA superstar duo, in one way or another.
What was unique about Howard and Harden’s friction was that Howard wanted to be the focal point of the offense, as he wanted the offense to be ran through him, which hadn’t proven to be an effective strategy due to his lack of post moves.
Should the Rockets make another run at Dwight Howard?
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith joined First Take at the time to elaborate on what led to Howard and Harden’s divorce.
Smith explained that Harden’s dribbling affection caused the relationship to go sour, and it’s not the first time Harden has received criticism about his dribbling, as former Houston Rockets forward and current TNT analyst Charles Barkley has dubbed Harden as “The Dribbler.”
If the Rockets do turn to Howard, there must be a mutual understanding of his role, as he’s no longer a superstar, and he’d be joining a team with two clearly-defined superstars in Harden and Westbrook. The Rockets wouldn’t be the first team to give Howard a second chance, as the Los Angeles Lakers followed suit during the 2019-20 season, in spite of a nasty ending in 2013.
The move was a success, as Howard lived upto his role of a backup big, and the Lakers captured the 2020 NBA title. Howard’s rebounding and defense would be welcomed to the Rockets, in addition to his ability to catch lob passes, which would be a tremendous boost for Harden.
With free agency set to kick off in the near future, we’ll find out sooner than later whether the Rockets will make a run at the future Hall of Famer. But considering the current construction of the roster, adding Howard wouldn’t be a bad idea.