Almost immediately after Hawks GM Danny Ferry took what were most definitely not half measures the speculation turned to whether it’s all just a prelude to a trade for Dwight Howard.
All of the usual dots have been connected: Howard wants out of Orlando, Howard is from Atlanta, and he’s boys with Josh Smith. But the one blank I have yet to see filled in is a desire by Howard to play for his hometown franchise over the long term.
In fact, the only thing I’ve ever heard is the opposite. Howard used to regularly attend Dream games at Phillips Arena during summers. Witnesses tell me that Howard would tell anyone who would listen that Philips is supposed to be his house but “they don’t know how to act.” And by “they” he of course means the team’s owners and management.
And then there were Howard’s comments during the 2011 playoffs, when he said he hates losing, “especially to the Hawks.” Asked to elaborate, Howard, annoyed by the question, snapped: “Come on. You know the answer to that.”
The answer is that Howard, like his pal Smith, doesn’t view the Hawks as a serious franchise. Or at least he didn’t back then. Obviously Danny Ferry is trying to change the perception of the Hawks, so maybe Howard (and/or Smith) changes his mind.
There’s been no word that’s happened so far, though. Howard still wants a trade to the Nets, who now are in no hurry to move him.
The Magic and Hawks had trade discussions over the past week involving Howard and I’m sure they are ongoing. But I don’t think Ferry is willing to trade Al Horford and the four years remaining on his reasonable contract for one year of Howard and all the associated drama.
The Hawks had serious trade discussions with Orlando for Howard back in December, the early days of the Dwightmare. Atlanta apparently was willing to make the deal without an assurance that Howard would even opt-in for next season. Horford was the main piece in that proposed deal.
But I don’t see the Hawks as being willing to trade for Howard without a long-term commitment now. That’s especially true if Orlando, as reported, is looking to unload one of its bad contracts as part of any deal for Howard.
The Hawks clearly would do that if Howard declares he’ll sign an extension here. Until that happens I doubt Howard will have a homecoming.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat
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