Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Dwight Howard considered retiring in 2015

2 Comments

Dwight Howard missed half the 2014-15 season due to injury, and he was investigated (but not charged) for child abuse that year.

But he remained defiantly confident.

He said he planned to play another 10 years. When his Rockets lost in the playoffs, he declared he was “still a champion.”

The picture behind the scenes wasn’t quite so rosy, though.

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

At a low point with the Rockets, after the 2014–15 season, he considered retiring. The jolly giant who supposedly had too much fun on the floor was miserable. “The joy,” Howard says, “was sucked out of it.” But what would retirement accomplish? He had to change his life regardless of his occupation. So he did what his teenage self would have done. He saw a pastor.

Calvin Simmons has ministered to hundreds of professional athletes in the past decade, including Adrian Peterson, so he is familiar with dramatic falls from grace. “Dwight had gone from the darling of the NBA to the black sheep,” Simmons says. “He realized he had done some things wrong and needed to change, but at the beginning he just wanted to share.”

“I saw him cleanse everything,” Simmons says, “and cut away the clutter around him, from a business manager to a security guard to all these financial people.” The sweep included his parents, whom he didn’t call for nearly two years. “That was hard,” Howard sighs. “It’s really hard to tell your parents, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I have to back away from you.’ They didn’t understand. They were very upset. But I wanted a genuine relationship with them that didn’t have anything to do with money or judgment.”

Howard’s fortunes didn’t exactly improve.

He feuded with James Harden, chafed at his role in Houston and endured public questions about why nobody likes him. Howard signed with his hometown Hawks, had a somewhat resurgent season, but again ended the year unhappy. Atlanta took major long-term salary just to dump him on the Hornets.

Howard is now a good situation in Charlotte, where the coach reveres him. This looks like Howard’s best chance of getting back on track.

But what if he doesn’t? That’s what I wonder when reading about 2015. If he nearly retired then, what happens if he doesn’t thrive with the Hornets and is faced with minimum-contract offers and small roles when he becomes a free agent at age 33 in 2019. Will he retire?

That’s obviously a ways off. For now, Howard will have every opportunity to right himself in Charlotte.

Three questions the Charlotte Hornets must answer this season

Kemba Walker
Getty
6 Comments

The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season:
36-46, missed the playoffs.

I know what you did last summer: Thanks to some circumstances in this year’s draft out of their control, the Hornets sort of fell into the lucky spot of drafting the University of Kentucky’s Malik Monk. Monk is an excellent 3-point shooter and should be a useful scorer for Charlotte off the bench. Meanwhile, the team also drafted Dwayne Bacon at No.40. Oh, and they traded for Dwight Howard. A 31-year-old Dwight Howard, but still.

THREE QUESTIONS THE HORNETS MUST ANSWER:

1) What is the identity of this team? Under head coach Steve Clifford the Hornets have traditionally been a good defensive team. Save for last season, each full year under Clifford the Hornets have been a Top 10 team in defensive rating. But last year it was a bit of a disaster, and Charlotte dipped to just 19th overall.

They could not play their most effective lineups due to injuries, and now with a revamped roster they will have to see if they can make it work. Al Jefferson has been gone for a full season now — long the offensive pacesetter for this team — and this is Kemba Walker‘s squad more than ever. He took a huge leap forward last season in efficiency, and it will be interesting to see where they go with a mix of veterans and young players as they try to fold Howard into it all.

2) Can Howard help a floundering defense? I sort of feel like people forget that the Atlanta Hawks finished with a winning record last season and fifth in the Eastern Conference. That counts for something, especially when you go back and remember that Dwight Howard had one of his best seasons in recent years on that squad. Howard also has the benefit of being familiar with Clifford, who helped coach him when he was a member of the Orlando Magic. Combined with Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky, it will be interesting to see how much Howard makes a difference to last seasons injury depleted squad.

Health alone won’t set Charlotte straight, and on offense it will still be the usual suspects carrying much of the load. Defense is where the Hornets have the most to make up in order to reach the playoffs next season, and Howard will be a critical part of that.

3) Is there a clear line between starters and role players in Charlotte? Kemba Walker, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dwight Howard, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Lamb. This is the list of players who hit 1000+ minutes last season in the NBA on this roster. Walker is set to be a starter, as is Batum, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Howard. Williams will likely be the fifth starter as a shooting presence — needed especially as MKG returns and with Marco Belinelli in Atlanta.

But where things could get muddy is if there is are jumps from the young scorers and simultaneous dips from the aging veterans. Charlotte seems open to that — especially when you look at players like Williams and Howard — who will have both Zeller and Kaminsky nipping at their heels. While the starting lineup could be what we’ve seen from Clifford before, the rotations could easily get tricky in Charlotte pretty quick. They’ll need to quickly figure out what those rotations are in order to win games.

Hornets bring back old-school classic teal uniforms this season

Courtesy Charlotte Hornets
4 Comments

Now this is an alternate jersey.

Other teams have toyed with teal, but no NBA pulls it off like the Charlotte Hornets — and they are bringing their classic uniform back,. The fan favorite. The original style the team wore from 1988 through 1997. Of course, there are a few tweaks, such as that Jumpman logo, but this is the classic look.

“Since we brought the Hornets name back in 2014, our fans have practically been begging for us to wear a version of the original Hornets uniform,” said Hornets President Fred Whitfield said in a statement.  “We could not be more excited to give them what they want and to see the historic pinstriped, teal Charlotte uniform back on an NBA court.”

They will be broken out for select games — starting with a nationally broadcast one against the Cavaliers Nov. 15.

This ‘s nice to see, it’s one of the best uniform styles in the league.

Here’s a preview of the new/old look.

Hornets plan to start Dwight Howard over Cody Zeller

Getty Images
4 Comments

In the last three seasons, the Hornets went 63-53 with Cody Zeller starting at center and 57-73 otherwise.

Charlotte plugged a major hole by acquiring a second center, Dwight Howard. But this team found a groove with Zeller starting at the position.

So, who will start this year?

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:

Coach Steve Clifford said Friday that his projected starters, going into training camp Sept. 26 at Spectrum Center, are Kemba Walker at point guard, Nic Batum at shooting guard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at small forward, Marvin Williams at power forward and Dwight Howard at center.

This is a tricky situation.

Howard is far more accomplished than Zeller and was probably better last season. But Zeller is seven years younger. If Howard is still better, he won’t be for long.

A five-time All-NBA first-teamer, Howard is also more likely to chafe at coming off the bench. But does Clifford want to implicitly reward that? Other Hornets might especially dislike a newcomer getting preferential treatment.

Unlike Howard, Zeller can play some power forward. But Zeller is far more effective at center, to the point it might not be worth eating into Marvin Williams’ and Frank Kaminsky‘s minutes at power forward. (Don’t even start on Williams playing small forward.)

There’s no easy answer, but it probably makes sense to give Howard the first crack at starting. Given Howard’s free-throw issues, Zeller might finish games. That could be a workable compromise.

Steve Clifford: Ankle injury for Malik Monk still “significant”

Getty
1 Comment

Charlotte Hornets first round draft pick Malik Monk missed all of the NBA summer league this year with an ankle injury. The team previously mentioned that his expected rehab time would be between two and four weeks. However, we now know that Monk could be out for significant time moving forward.

According to Hornets coach Steve Clifford, Monk’s ankle injury is still “significant” and causing him enough issues that he is not yet able to undergo rigorous training.

This information comes to us from the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell, who had lots of injury and rotation updates for us this week.

Via Twitter:

While Monk will apparently be around for a public practice on September 30, it is still unclear whether he will be ready to start the season. Don’t expect Monk to start for the Hornets even though he was a prized prospect and a great 3-point shooter at Kentucky — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will hold his spot on the wing.

The Hornets are also hoping they can get Michael Carter-Williams back on the floor sooner rather than later, as the former rookie of the year is doubtful to start the season with a knee injury.