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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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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