The Hawks reconfigured their whole philosophy for Dwight Howard.
But their season ended in the first round against the Wizards.
After sounding unhappy during the series, Howard expanded on his displeasure in his exit interview with the media.
How difficult was it to play just 26 minutes per game, including only four minutes per fourth quarter, against Washington?
It’s very difficult. I want to play. I want to be out on the floor. I want to make a difference, make an impact and can’t do that on the bench
Were there conversations with Hawks president/coach Mike Budenholzer?
Nah. But we’ve got to get ready for next year.
Did you think limited playing time was due to matchups?
No, I didn’t. It doesn’t matter about a matchup. I want to play. It doesn’t matter who’s out there. I want to do the best for my team and this city. It’s why I came here. So, it is upsetting. I want to get out there and play. You work hard and you watch it being from taken from you – not the coach taking it, but Washington taking the opportunity from us, moving to the next round.
Do you expect your role to change next year?
I’m just going to work on my game, get in the gym. I continue to do the stuff I do everyday, and I want to see it utilized.
Is it safe to this wasn’t the role laid out when you signed last summer?
I’ll let you say that. I just want to get ready for next year. That’s all I’m thinking about.
You appear to be biting your tongue.
Just want to get ready for next season. Have a good summer, get my body right, get ready for next year.
How do you channel your frustration going forward?
It’s my 13th season, so I’m pissed. I don’t get younger. I’m not going to be 25, 26. So, yeah, I’m pissed.
I’m upset, because we’re not playing no more. I want to play. I don’t want to watch someone else hold up the trophy.
Did you have any difficulty blending into the pick-and-roll offense?
If you watch the games, I did a million pick-and-rolls. So it can’t be me blending in with the pick-and-roll. I did that, so you can’t use that.
What reason –?
I have no idea. All I said was, I did pick-and-roll. I did everything I was asked to.
What reason did Budenholzer give when you talked to him?
I haven’t spoken with Bud, so there’s nothing.
Does losing feel worse this year than previous years?
It feels bad every year. You’ve got to watch somebody hold up a trophy, it hurts. And you know you work hard, so it pisses you off. I’m sure if you wrote the best stories in the world and nobody read your stories, and they told you to stop writing and you saw somebody else’s story who wasn’t as good as yours getting put out there, I’m pretty sure you’ll be pissed, too. So, yeah, that’s how it is in basketball. You work hard. Sometimes you don’t win, but it piss you off, because you want to win. If you don’t want to win, you shouldn’t be playing
Howard didn’t say anything directly disparaging about the Hawks, but he left the door wide open for people to believe he’s upset with the organization. As Howard said, he’s in his 13th season. If he didn’t want to give the impression he’s unhappy with the team, I think he’d know how to do that.
The Hawks are at a crossroads. Are they building around Howard and Paul Millsap? Are they rebuilding around Dennis Schroder, Taurean Prince and Tim Hardaway Jr.? Something in between?
Howard is clearly pushing for a certain direction, and that’s fair. I don’t blame him for not embracing a patient approach. He’s a 31-year-old big man. A long-term plan won’t apply to him.
But the Hawks have to do what’s best for them. It’ll depend on Millsap, who’ll likely opt out, and what the team wants – a higher floor or a higher ceiling? Millsap and Howard raise the floor but limit the ceiling. Millsap’s free agency could determine how Atlanta proceeds around Howard – or maybe even without him at all.