Does Dwight Howard’s baggage outweigh his talent?

Howard (AP photo)

When it came to survival, Stan Van Gundy should've known he wasn't going to win a battle with Dwight Howard. (AP photo)

Last November, I proposed a trade for the Hawks: Deal any two players on their roster for Dwight Howard.

Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. Josh Smith and Al Horford. Johnson and Al Horford. Marvin Williams, several Mediterranean islands and the undying gratitude of every Atlanta resident.

But given what just occurred, I’m wondering how much better off the Hawks would be in the long run with such a diva on the roster.

The Orlando Magic, in an expected move, fired coach Stan Van Gundy, ostensibly because Howard wanted him out. Even before Van Gundy went public late in the season that Howard was trying to get him fired, it was clear the two were in an unworkable situation.

Ownership knows firing their coach and general manager (Otis Smith) won’t lose them any ticket sales. Losing Howard would. So this was an easy choice. Of course, if Howard leaves any way, they will fired Van Gundy for nothing.

Van Gundy is a terrific coach, one of the NBA’s best, in my opinion. Critics banged on him for outing Howard publicly. But given that the franchise centerpiece had been stabbing him in the back for months to management, undermined his authority in the locker room and wrecked any conceivable chance Orlando had of succeeding this season, I had no problem with it. Fact is, Van Gundy probably gained a lot respect around the league for it (certainly within the coaching fraternity and with the media).

It seems strange to suggest this. But Howard, despite being the world’s most dominant center and one of the five best players in the world, period, may nonetheless be poison for a franchise. Whether he remains in Orlando or ultimately is traded or leaves in free agency, there is reason to believe he will wield too much power wherever he ends up.

When it gets to the point that an athlete has the call on who the coach is and how a team is built, it’s an unhealthy situation. Ultimately, the owner is bowing to ever whim of the player because he’s worried about turnstile counts. It doesn’t play well in the front office or the locker room, and that spills onto the court.

The way the Magic have been operating lately, they might as well let Howard interview the candidates to replace Van Gundy. Better yet, let them march, one by one, into the Roman Coliseum, while Howard  sits on a throne and gives the thumbs up or thumbs down signal.

Have the lions ready.

It sounds extreme to suggest an NBA team would be better off without Dwight Howard. But it speaks to the player’s prima donna tendencies that it’s suddenly something worth thinking about.

By Jeff Schultz

143 comments Add your comment

I'm First

May 21st, 2012
5:05 pm

JB

May 21st, 2012
5:05 pm

JB

May 21st, 2012
5:05 pm

I'm First

May 21st, 2012
5:06 pm

Isn’t basketball over yet?
Summer of Braves and then FOOTBALL!!!!!!!

I'm First

May 21st, 2012
5:09 pm

Basketball is starting to seem like soccer…..wherein somebody is always trying to force it down our throats, yet majority of people don’t care whatsoever.

I'm First

May 21st, 2012
5:12 pm

We may watch once in a blue moon…..kind of like the World Cup. And only if USA plays halfway decent.
In Atlanta we’ve got the Hawks, so there’s never even a reason to watch once every few years.

Astro Joe

May 21st, 2012
5:15 pm

My guess is that the third wheel of this tricycle leaves Orlando in about 6 weeks. IMO, this is a precursor to trading Howard and starting all over again. They get to present a whole new brain trust to reshape the franchise. SVG is NOT the kind of head coach you want for a rebuilding project. If Otis Smith were staying, I’d probably agree this was a Howard-related coup… but with Otis gone as GM, my guess is that they are wiping the slate clean and hoping for a Herschel to the Vikings type trade.

GT

May 21st, 2012
5:17 pm

You got your eyes fixed for DH, but you still have that blind spot for Josh Smith.

JackWilson

May 21st, 2012
5:20 pm

Jeff Van Gundy just got fired for no reason . . . . other than Dwight Howard had called for his head earlier in the season. I guess it got a delayed reaction, but it appears the players are running the asylum. Many years ago, Magic Johnson called for the firing of Paul Westhead. Westhead was promptly fired and replaced with Phil Jackson. Phil went on to coach the Lakers to five world championships.

LukeMerriman

May 21st, 2012
5:21 pm

Yesterdays Miami Heat game in the third quarter where LaBron and Wade did most of the scoring, those two playing off each other looked like the Harlem Globe Trotters–even though it was mostly those two doing most of the scoring. I have never seen anything like it and I think if the Heat can keep it up, they might just win that title that they are so desparately seeking.

Skeezix

May 21st, 2012
5:30 pm

Howard is way overrated, has a big head, and Magic ownership should have unloaded him. Orlando has become a circus.

JohnGTFan

May 21st, 2012
5:31 pm

JackWilson…that was funny. It was Pat Riley that replaced Westhead, not Phil Jackson.

JohnGTFan

May 21st, 2012
5:33 pm

and riley won 4 titles, phil won 5 in 2 different stints as the lakers coach

Plateau Hawks

May 21st, 2012
5:34 pm

Typical Hawks….in a year when 2nd seeded Chicago sputters out after losing their main player in 1st round. They blow a great chance of moving past 2nd round and (finally) going to conference finals. But of course, being the Hawks, they blew a great start against Boston in the first round and couldn’t move past it.
If these guys haven’t hit a plateau…..I don’t know what one is.

Mr. Riley

May 21st, 2012
5:35 pm

It does seem that D. Howard is more of a headache than its worth. I just see him turning into another P. Ewing. All the talent and game in the world but no ring because of his ego.

Ted Striker

May 21st, 2012
5:40 pm

I wouldn’t want anyone on my team I wouldn’t want on my side in a bar fight — especially if a guy is going to change sides in the middle of the fight.

Howard is the Eastern conference version of Kobe Bryant. Both are game changers, neither are team players.

Thumbs down on DH.

Plateau Hawks

May 21st, 2012
5:41 pm

Where’s the magic frozen lottery envelope for the Hawks, i.e. Knicks/Ewing?
I know they use ping pong balls and the Hawks aren’t BAD ENOUGH for the lottery.
Maybe they should give a small percentage chance to all teams that don’t win it all.
Might help give a good team that missing ingredient to get better.
Lottery teams usually stay lottery teams for a while before inching upwards.

probably

May 21st, 2012
5:43 pm

Hawks would probably choose a Marvin WIlliams over a Chris Paul again.

Kelly

May 21st, 2012
5:43 pm

Howard is another in a long line of players to behave this way. The league has serious leadership issues. Of course, Stern let it turn into the WWE circus it is, so he really only has himself to blame. “Players league” or not, any viable enterprise has a hierarchy in place for a reason. With the NBA, it’s often turned upside down. While it’s nice to see that players have a little say in the decision-making process, it’s counterproductive. Howard is the poster child for counterproductivity. He’s a privileged snot drama queen and adding him to ATL would be tantamount to bringing TO to your football team. Bad move. Now…if we can oust this crappy ownership, that would be productive.

Delbert D.

May 21st, 2012
5:50 pm

How about trading any 2 Hawks player for some luggage?

Reality

May 21st, 2012
5:52 pm

Reality- The Hawks will never be a contender with Joe Johnson
Reality- The Hawks will never be a contender with Josh (jump shooting) Smith
Reality- The Hawks will never be contenders with Marvin and Al
Reality- The Hawks will never be a contender with current head coach
Reality- The Hawks will never be a contender with current ownership and GM
Reality- The misguided direction of this franchise will never change-small market-small thinkers

Kelly

May 21st, 2012
5:55 pm

@Reality Stop it! I CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH! JJ was a terrible move, resigning. Smith wants out anyway, but he’s shown improvement, sort of. The ownership blows. I don’t think the coaching situation is that huge of a deal, but I’d rather see Van Gundy in ATL. Too late. Ownership blows.

Mike in Georgia

May 21st, 2012
5:58 pm

I have no respect for a player like Dwight Howard who won’t play for the home team (just like a top prospect in GA signing with ALA or Auburn)…just seems like a traitor to me….selfish in that he thinks he’s too good for us.

Second, I, like so many others, are truly sick of this new generation of players who think the league is all about them. Like there weren’t great players before them. Divas are just childish, immature dirtbags no matter what industry they’re in.

Let’s find some new talent for this team….keep Horford and Teague as a nucleus and start from there. We don’t need “stars” to be a winning team or playoff contender…think Dallas Mavericks of 2011. Good luck Hawks!

Shame upon you Dwight Howard…you’re no longer a Georgian in my book.

Rick James

May 21st, 2012
6:06 pm

I dont see Dwight Howard staying Orlando which means that a good coach has been fired for nothing..He’s a super talent but as an owner I just dont want is element on my team.As a coach/general manager I wouldnt want him because he’s a whining backstabber.He’s quit on his Orlando teamates more than once so as a player I dont think so either.But a tandem of Howard,Smith and Horford would be fun to watch.

Chris

May 21st, 2012
6:10 pm

Mike, Why hate on a guy just because he doesn’t want to play for the “home” team? That is just childish. Just because people grow up or live in Georgia does not mean they have to be blindly loyal to only sports teams in Georgia. A person should be able to make the best choice for themselves and if that means going out of state then so be it. I wish all players wanted to stay and represent this great state but I wouldn’t knock a guy for going somewhere else if it’s the best fit for them, even if it is going to Bama or Florida.
I’m glad Howard doesn’t want to play in Atlanta. The pathetic Hawks have enough problems as it is without bringing this prima-donna to town.

Misty From Macon

May 21st, 2012
6:12 pm

Schultz you are soooo predictable. i bet you used the same article, dusted off from your old typewriter, about Jordan. Jordan wasn’t winning with Collins as the Head Coach, but I bet in your twisted, soulless, myopic eyes it was probably Jordan’s fault. He was being a “diva”.

Stop blaming the players for the coaches bad decisions. Let’s start there, then you can move forward to actually being able to report the sports without those jaundiced eyes bothering you………

pj

May 21st, 2012
6:12 pm

Trade J-smoove and marvin and a draft pick for Howard. Then your starting lineup would be PG – Teague SG – Iso Joe SF – T-Mac/Stackhouse PF – Big Al C – Dwight Howard
This lineup plus a passable bench and hawks make Eastern Finals.

Benjamin

May 21st, 2012
6:18 pm

Stan Van Gundy over Larry Drew?

Wish we’d waited a day or two before extending Drew. Regardless of what happens down in Orlando, it’s time to shake the bottle a little in Atlanta.

Benjamin

May 21st, 2012
6:21 pm

Also, I’d like to see Jack Wilson’s history book. lol

Kelly

May 21st, 2012
6:27 pm

Yeah, Misty, but did Jordan try to be the GM, the owner and quit on his teammates? That’d be a “no.” Don’t let hatred corrupt your analysis. Not trying to get in blog fight at all, but the personal attacks are just weird.

Time

May 21st, 2012
6:30 pm

These people hate Josh. It would be pure comedy to see their reaction to a true diva like Dwight.

Paul in NH

May 21st, 2012
6:40 pm

“Howard is the Eastern conference version of Kobe Bryant. Both are game changers, neither are team players.”

Having Howard in the same sentence as Kobe is an insult to Kobe. Kobe has 5 championship rings (3 with Shaq, 2 without), an NBA MVP and 2 NBA Finals MVPs – not to mention he wants the ball in the clutch. One of the Lakers finals victories was over the Howard-led Magic.

Benny

May 21st, 2012
6:41 pm

This happened in the 90’s to the same team, when Ron Rothstein was coach.

donte080

May 21st, 2012
6:52 pm

Why is it necessarily Howard’s fault Van Gundy got canned? Anyone who watched the magic could see that team is not put together well (Otis Smith), and has a very poor game plan (Coach Van Gundy).

How is this Dwight Howard’s fault?

ryan

May 21st, 2012
6:55 pm

D12 a coach killer i am starting think maybe its good idea we are not geting him i just don’t why though he wants to go to the Nets so bad they are no were near championship caliber i guess he just wants a New York penthouse .

steven a smith

May 21st, 2012
6:59 pm

If Dwight Howard would make his free throws, the Orlando Magic would allready be NBA champions., suffice it to say, Dwight Howard is the main problem with that organizations’ lack of success!

donte080

May 21st, 2012
6:52 pm

Why is it necessarily Howard’s fault Van Gundy got canned? Anyone who watched the magic could see that team is not put together well (Otis Smith), and has a very poor game plan (Coach Van Gundy).

How is this Dwight Howard’s fault?

Dirty Dawg

May 21st, 2012
7:10 pm

Several years back, when Howard and Smith were both HS seniors and both were participating in a ‘camp’, or whatever they called it, sponsored by Adidas and being held in Knoxville, a friend was covering the several-day event for a video for a sports cable channel. He and his crew came away from the thing saying at Howard was both the best player and had the best attitude of any of the attendees, and was recognized as such. Conversely, Smith was a petulant, lazy punk – and was unofficially selected for tat award. Seems as if they both have ended up in he same place…wonder why?

Red Stick

May 21st, 2012
7:26 pm

Good points Jeff except I have to disagree about Howard as a top 5 player. I think he’s overrated as another poster pointed out.

Mike in Georgia

May 21st, 2012
7:43 pm

Chris….first, the Hawks are not pathetic…they’ve made the playoffs several years in a row now and beat Boston a couple of years back…they are missing one or two ingredients to be a true powerhouse. If you think that warrants a pathetic label…that makes you pathetic and maybe childish as well.

Regarding my feelings on Dwight not showing love to his “home” state, it is not childish and many of us feel that way. He has a choice to go where he wants just as I have to feel the way I do.

Anything else?

Mike in Georgia

May 21st, 2012
7:45 pm

And I agree with Red Stick…DH is not a Top 5 player because of his lack of hustle and me-first attitude. He has Top-5 talent but that is it. You have to use the talent to get the credit!

Evander Holyfield's Last Remaining Brain Cell

May 21st, 2012
7:48 pm

Howard is a diva. Be a man a make a decision.

@I’m First- NBA ratings are through the roof, baseball ratings are awful, you aren the minority, kids and the country love the NBA.

The Hawks are competitive but need a star.

Beast from the East

May 21st, 2012
7:50 pm

Terrible move. They should have traded him already and gotten some players that want to play as part of a team. Instead, they can the coach and GM, but keep the Diva. He’ll bail on them after next season, so they better trade him quickly.

Beast from the East

May 21st, 2012
7:53 pm

Mike in Georgia,
You may want to venture across the state line someday. There’s a great big world out there and many folks choose to broaden their horizons. Newsflash…the State of Georgia is a fine place, but it’s not the greatest place on Earth.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 21st, 2012
7:55 pm

Dwight Howard is the best center in the league. This is the NBA, where talent always wins. Talent like that trumps an entire 747 full of baggage. The Hawks would be foolish not to acquire him if they had the chance.

Beast from the East

May 21st, 2012
7:57 pm

Najeh,
If Dwight is the best center and talent always wins, then why doesn’t Dwight have multiple rings?

Najeh Davenpoop

May 21st, 2012
8:00 pm

He’ll have plenty before long, especially if he plays for the best and most successful sports team in Atlanta. Come home, Dwight.

Beast from the East

May 21st, 2012
8:03 pm

He’ll have multiple if he lands on the right TEAM. He’s not Kobe or Jordan.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 21st, 2012
8:46 pm

“If Dwight is the best center and talent always wins, then why doesn’t Dwight have multiple rings?”

“He’ll have multiple if he lands on the right TEAM. He’s not Kobe or Jordan.”

You’re right, he’s not Kobe or Jordan. But Kobe won most of his rings playing with a Hall of Famer. Jordan won his rings playing with another Hall of Famer. Who is the best teammate Dwight has had? Turkoglu? Rashard Lewis? Jameer Nelson?

If Orlando trades him, people will realize how much he has meant to that team. The Magic are going to be atrocious if he is gone. Can’t blame him for having mediocre teammates.

Email Profiling Is Wrong

May 21st, 2012
8:59 pm

Magic Johnson got Paul Westhead fired as Lakers coach years ago. Not comparing Howard to Ervin Johnson, but…

Paul in NH

May 21st, 2012
9:01 pm

Najeh,
You mean JJ Redick isn’t the best teammate Howard has had? ;-)