FALL FROM GRACE

In just two seasons, former Rocket Dwight Howard has fallen off the face of the basketball earth

Dwight Howard has bounced around since leaving the Rockets. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Given the ability of Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to remake the roster on the fly, it's easy to forget that Dwight Howard's tenure in Houston ended just two years ago.

He left the Rockets for a short-lived homecoming with the Atlanta Hawks and was traded the Charlotte Hornets after one season. Howard is now on the move again.

The Hornets sent Howard to the Brooklyn Nets on June 20, and the next day it was reported the two sides will negotiate a buyout.

Since his time with the Rockets came to a close, Howard will have played for three different teams in as many seasons. He has gone from one of the faces of the NBA to a vagabond.  

A reputation for a questionable attitude and inconsistent play will continue to follow Howard. His insistence that he is still a dominant force on offense has been a major factor in his fall from grace.

With an opportunity to chase rings, the looming question is: Will any contender want to sign the moody veteran known for getting on his teammates’ nerves? 

Howard is partly a victim of the times. Had he debuted in 1994 instead of 2004, it's fair to believe his career would have taken a different trajectory. It's not his fault how the game has passed him by and evolved to rely on 3-pointers and spacing. But it’s not as if he ever had the makings of an elite post player. 

Despite training sessions with then-coach Kevin McHale and Hakeem Olajuwon, there was enough awkward footwork and botched running hook shots to conclude that Howard would never develop post moves. It seems that everyone except Howard recognizes that his athleticism is what has kept him in the league for 14 years, and not finesse.

Wherever he lands, Howard won’t be asked to carry a scoring load. He may not even start. Howard can still easily average a double-double, and can be effective as a defender, rebounder and recipient of lobs. It remains to be seen if Howard can accept a role that carries less responsibilities. If he wants to join a championship-caliber team, he will have no choice.

Leaving Houston did not put a hex on Howard, but he has lost his luster. A similar argument can be made for what has happened to Chandler Parsons since he left for the Dallas Mavericks in 2014.

Parsons’ path to revitalizing his career will be more difficult than Howard’s. Long-term knee injury concerns have prematurely ended his regular season three years in a row. Prior to that, he missed the Mavs’ first-round series against the Rockets apart from a cameo in Game 1.

Parsons’ time in Dallas ended abruptly after two seasons, and he signed a four-year, $98.4 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. He has played a total of 70 games for the Grizzlies in two seasons. Being oft-injured and the two years and nearly $50 million left on his contract have made him the subject of trade rumors.

It was a heartbreaker for fans when the Rockets didn’t match Parsons’ offer when he was a restricted free agent. Howard’s pouting during the disastrous 41-41 season in 2015-2016 made his departure more imminent. It’s clear now that the Rockets were wise to part ways with them when they did.

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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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