It's Now Dwight Howard's Time to Shine
*Photo via Denver Post
It’s official, Al Horford will be a Boston Celtic. That said, it’s now Dwight Howard’s time to shine in Atlanta. The chance that the Hawks signed the three-time Defensive Player of the Year from the mid-2000’s is slim, but it is what it is. He’s here and Al Horford is gone. With one year remaining on Paul Millsap’s contract with a player option for the 2017-18 season, Howard is now -like it or not- the face of the Atlanta Hawks franchise.
Not since Howard left Orlando four seasons ago has he had a legitimate opportunity to be “the man” on a consistent 50-win playoff team. That time is now. The Lakers had Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash (for whatever that move was worth) during Howard’s single season in Englewood, I mean Hollywood. The Rockets had James Harden, the clear and present leader of that team, when Howard arrived. The Hawks have Millsap, Kyle Korver, Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore. All very good players but none of those names exactly sell jerseys. Dwight Howard is the name, he is the native son returned to Atlanta to both refurbish his reputation while keeping the Hawks on what has been a very positive track. Will Atlanta dethrone Cleveland for Eastern Conference supremacy? Heck no, not without Horford. But can they win the majority of their games and win a playoff round (maybe even against an improved Boston Celtics team)? Absolutely.
This is the perfect opportunity for Howard to humble himself and approach this three-year contract like it’s his last (because if this doesn’t work out it may very well be his last $20+ million season).
The best case scenario is Howard is rejuvenated when he hears a packed Philips Arena crowd cheer his name during pre-game announcements and “Let’s Go Hawks” during a close game and turns back into the superior shot-blocker and rebounder that he once was. A recent prime example would be his postseason play during Houston’s miraculous run to the Western Conference Finals two seasons ago. It can happen.
Worse case scenario is the Hawks have just signed the surly, prickly media-phobe Dwight Howard and he puts up numbers like he did last season for the Rockets (13.7 points per game, 11.8 rebounds per game, the rebounding total his second lowest since averaging 10.0 per game as a rookie).
Either way he’s here to stay for the next three seasons because there’s no team in the league that will take him in a trade with one or two years remaining after next season and deliver equal value. The ball is in Dwight Howard’s court on his home turf no less. This has got to work, there’s no other alternative.