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Howard’s Odyssey: Dwight Howard and his fall from All-Star to afterthought

There was a time when Dwight Howard was one of the NBA’s best and biggest stars, now he’s about to land on his fourth team in as many years, and there’s no one to blame but himself.

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Charlotte Hornets v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

There’s an episode of How I Met Your Mother that serves as a sad metaphor for Dwight Howard.

In “The Time Travelers” — a super out there episode featuring future versions of Ted, Barney and the previously seen only once before character Coat Check Girl — future Ted and future Barney try to convince present day Ted to go to Robots versus Wrestlers. The future Ted and Barneys are unable to talk present day Ted into going to the show, and he tells Barney he’s going to go home. Barney’s cool with it, which surprises Ted because normally in situations like this, Barney would tell Ted that life is short and to seize every moment before it’s gone.

Except, that moment is gone. There is no Barney, he’s at home with Robin trying to decide on a caterer for their wedding. Marshall and Lily, Ted’s other two best friends, are home trying to put their son to sleep. “Look around Ted, you’re all alone,” the imagined Barney in Ted’s head tells him.

For Dwight Howard, his moment is gone, too.

The Hornets shipped Howard off to Brooklyn after a failed yearlong experiment. Even more incredulously, Howard was swapped for Timofey Mosgov’s albatross of a contract but the money and the years owed to Mosgov was, apparently, nowhere near as costly as keeping Howard on the roster.

A decade ago, the words “Dwight Howard” and “salary dump” would never be grouped together in the same sentence. Howard’s an eight-time All-Star and All-NBA selection, a five-time All-Defense selection, and owns three Defensive Player of the Year awards.

Howard’s a no-doubt Hall of Famer, there’s no denying that. But Dwight Howard is also apparently a complete nuisance of a teammate who’s looking to join his fourth team in as many years, and his sixth team this decade. Howard is as two sides of the same coin as they get: best center in the league for a period of time and probable odds on favorite if the NBA took an informal “who’s the most punchable teammate” poll.

Howard is the oddest of all odysseys. Remember when his Magic beat LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals? LeBron had just won his first MVP award, but ultimately it was Howard’s team that advanced. Jump ahead three years and one truly cringeworthy “shared” press conference with Stan Van Gundy, and the Howard in Orlando era was closed.

Remember when Howard forced his way out of Orlando to Los Angeles? Howard appeared with his new teammate Steve Nash on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s NBA Preview and the title read “Now this is going to be FUN.” Howard, Nash and Kobe Bryant were supposed to be the super team out west but it flopped in spectacular fashion and the Lakers were swept out of the first round by the Spurs. Culturally, Bryant and Howard couldn’t be bigger polar opposites, as Kobe put it:

I tried teaching Dwight. I tried showing him. But the reality is that when you have a perception of what it is to win a championship- and most perceptions of what it’s like to win are a very outgoing, very gregarious locker room where you pick each other up and you’re friends all the time. That’s the perception. And I think that’s what his perception of what the idea is. But when he saw the reality of it, it made him uncomfortable. And it’s very tough to be able to fight through that, to deal with challenge. And I don’t think he was willing to deal with that uncomfortable and combative nature.

So Los Angeles didn’t work out and Howard was on the market. Even if Kobe didn’t want Dwight, some in Los Angeles did. Some meaning former Lakers and current Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak. Kupchak said of Howard “He’s our future.”

Houston won the Summer of Howard in 2013 and if Dwight’s relationship with Kobe Bryant was frosty, his three year stint with James Harden was, as OutKast put it, “cooler than cool/ice cold.” Harden wanted Howard to be stronger when it came to setting screens and protect the rim better, but Howard...well, Howard didn’t say much in response and that lack of communication furthered the divide between the two and before you knew it, Howard was shipped off to his hometown Atlanta Hawks.

Howard’s stint in Atlanta only lasted a year before he was brought to Charlotte. His stay in Charlotte lasted, of course, just this past season, 365 days exactly, and his stay in both cities have some similarities. Namely, almost everyone loathed Howard as a teammate. In Atlanta, Howard’s teammates celebrated when he was traded, and Brendan Haywood described Howard’s stint in Charlotte on Sirius XM much the same way:

...the locker room hated Dwight Howard. I’m not sure if Charlotte is rebuilding or if they’re just trying to get Dwight Howard out of there, but it was clear the locker room did not like Dwight Howard.”

His “act” in those two instances apparently included disingenuous calls for unity and more touches in the post for himself. And in both cases, the teams that employed Howard traded him for players with equally large salaries. Neither Atlanta nor Charlotte hesitated to take on deals for Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and Mosgov, and neither team seems even slightly saddened by Howard’s exit.

As Chris Mannix tweeted: “In Charlotte Dwight Howard was...Dwight Howard.”

Wherever Howard plays basketball in the 2018-19 season in won’t be with the Nets. Howard and Brooklyn agreed to a buyout, and he has desire is to join a championship contending team, stating, “I want to be in a situation where I have an opportunity to help a team win. That’s my only goal. All I need is a real chance to and a clean slate where it’s not people talking about my past.” Which is fine, since Dwight Howard, the basketball player, could still help a team. He’s coming off a 16-12 season here in Charlotte and even had a 30-30 game. The problem is if you sign Dwight Howard, you’re getting Dwight Howard and all that entails off the court.

Gone are the days where Dwight Howard was the best defensive player in the league and wowed us with spectacular Superman slams in dunk contests. Howard has always been a bit of a character, but lately he’s reached class clown status; except these days no one’s laughing.

From Orlando, to L.A., to Houston, to Atlanta and now Charlotte, every stop along Howard’s path has been full of locker room drama. What’s the common denominator? None of Howard’s teammates were sad to see him go.

Look around Dwight, you’re all alone.