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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Let him cook! Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets are in the midst of a rebuild. Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr are studs. KPJ just signed a four-year extension with the team. Other guys like Jabari Smith Jr, Kenyon Martin Jr, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher, Tari Eason, and Jae'Sean Tate are really good pieces to surround Green and KPJ with. The only issue with this group: they're REALLY young! Tate is the elder statesman at 27 of the young nucleus. Most are barely old enough to buy a drink. Some still aren't old enough! They're a bunch of green bananas waiting to turn yellow to slightly brown and be ripe enough for consumption.

We need to give it time. Just like bananas, they take time to ripen. Coach Stephen Silas is known for developing young players. His most prized student is the star player for that team in South Oklahoma up 45. Number 77 for that team credited Silas with helping him realize his All-Pro potential while Silas was a part of the coaching staff there. To a man, all his former players credit him with being a positive influence on their careers. So why are fans in a rush to get rid of him?

When you look at the Rockets' record over the last few years, it's gross. Sure, they've been a lottery team the last couple of seasons, but that was by design. As part of the Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook trades, they gave away pick swap rights. Had they not been that bad, they wouldn't have been able to draft Green or Smith Jr. Those two guys are building blocks for the future, along with KPJ. Giving those picks away would've put this team further down the totem pole of developing themselves into a contender. Losing pays off when you can hit on high lottery picks.

If you give a chef dirt, bread, ham, molded cheese, and spoiled mayo, can you expect anything else but a nasty ham sandwich? How about if the chef was given a steak that is almost rotten, potatoes with root growth, and spoiled butter? Could you expect a better meal than the sandwich? Yes! However, that meal may still cause a stomachache. Now, give said chef a full complement of gourmet groceries and guess what you'll get?

This is why I say let Silas cook. He's the perfect coach for this group of kids. He can teach them all the fundamentals of the game at this level and help them grow into their full potential. If there's a change to be made on the sidelines, move Silas into a front office role, but DO NOT get rid of him! Guys like him are too valuable. Why do you think Mark Cuban hated losing him, but knew he couldn't retain him because he had a head coach already? Cuban knew what he had in Silas and what Silas did for Luka Doncic. He can do something similar for the Rockets if given the time to work his magic.

Should Tilman Fertita find the need to move on, I'd look for a more experienced coach who can guide them from bottom of the playoff ladder into top four in the West and real contenders. For now, Silas is the head chef. Continue giving him the groceries he needs, and he'll continue giving these kids the lessons they need to develop. Changing the coach now could stunt their growth. Let him cook!

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