Dwight Howard on his “disinterest” this season in Houston: “I felt like my role was being reduced”

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Dwight Howard wants to be liked. We all want to be liked, but for professional athletes (and others in the spotlight) there needs to be a confidence in what you are doing/want to do and a lack of concern for the people who tell you how bad you are at it.

Dwight Howard also still wants to be a key focal point of an NBA offense, although his play and numbers post back surgery suggest he’s not that guy anymore.

All of that seemed to come together in a rough season for Howard in Houston, where he averaged 13.7 points a game (but got just 8.5 shot attempts per game, the fewest since his rookie season) and added 11.8 rebounds a night. He played stretches of good defense, but this was James Hardens’ team and Howard felt like a high-quality role player. Like the second or third best player on a good team, not the Alpha. That led to nights where he clearly was disinterested.

He opened up to Jackie MacMullan in a Q&A on ESPN about why he was so disinterested — and talks about going to GM Daryl Morey about his concerns.

“I felt like my role was being reduced. I went to [Rockets general manager] Daryl [Morey] and said, ‘I want to be more involved.’ Daryl said, ‘No, we don’t want you to be.’ My response was, ‘Why not? Why am I here?’ It was shocking to me that it came from him instead of our coach. So I said to him, ‘No disrespect to what you do, but you’ve never played the game. I’ve been in this game a long time. I know what it takes to be effective….’

“My friends kept telling me, ‘Even if you aren’t getting shots, there are so many other things you can control while you are on the floor.’ And they were right. I allowed not getting the ball to affect me. That’s on me. As a big, someone who has been the focal point of the team, who is still young, who still has some great years in front of me, you run the floor, you sprint as hard as you can, you duck in, and still, you don’t get the ball. It brings you down. It sucks the energy out of you. I had long conversations with people close to me who said, ‘Dwight, this is going to make you look bad. Don’t keep doing this.’ So I listened to them.”

Howard’s role was being reduced. He may not like it, but a lot of teams see him more in that role now. For the record, Morey did not comment on this story when contacted by MacMullan.

Howard opens up in this brilliant Q&A about his time with the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, as well his exit from Orlando and his relationship with Stan Van Gundy (which is still strong, actually).

Howard refused to confirm whether or not he would opt out of the final year of his contract with the Rockets, although it would be a shock to most around the league if he didn’t choose to become a free agent. Then it will be interesting to see what the market will offer Howard, a guy who still has value on the court but not as much as he envisions. He reportedly will seek a max contract at around $30 million a season, although what concerns more some teams more than the money is the years — he has a history of back and other ailments, and is now on the wrong side of 30. Is any GM going to lock him in for four years? Can he get three with a team option? I imagine a lot of first offers to him will have just two guaranteed seasons. Dallas is known to be interested in Howard’s services, but there will be others.

Whatever new team he lands on, is Howard willing to work within the offensive system, or is he going to be disinterested if more of the offense doesn’t run through him? There are a lot of questions still to answer for Howard.