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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome