Dwight Howard was once one of the NBA’s most feared big men. A super athletic monster that could jump out of the gym, block just about any shot coming his way, and bend entire defenses in the pick and roll. He was arguably the most dominant big man in the NBA at his peak with the Orlando Magic.
Of course, it hasn’t been that way in a long time. Part of his steady decline has been age, but a bigger part is injuries. Howard has battled multiple injuries ever since a lower back injury in 2012 sidelined him for the rest of that season. This season in Washington, Howard has been forced to the sidelines by a glute injury that’s allowed him to only appear in nine games
The Wizards season went off the rails early, but there was once hope they could get healthy and have a fighting chance at the playoffs. However, as the season went on it became more and more clear that Howard would not return. On Wednesday, before the Wizards matchup with the Suns, coach Scott Brooks confirmed that Howard would miss the few remaining games of the season.
The news of Howard missing the season is pretty inconsequential to the Wizards. Between John Wall being out, the Otto Porter trade, and Howard just never being healthy the writing has been on the wall for Washington for some time. However, Howard missing basically the entire season could have a huge impact on his future as an NBA player.
Ever since leaving Houston, Howard has struggled to stick around in a single place. The Wizards were his fourth new team in three seasons — although he never played for the Nets who waived him after trading for him from Charlotte. During that span, he was twice traded by teams that just wanted to move on from him. Howard’s always been a bit of a locker room headache, but typically the on-court production was worth the headaches. The last few seasons it hasn’t been and now Howard can’t even seem to get on the floor at all. At this point, it might be worth asking the question if there is an NBA future for Howard.
There was still some talent in Howard during his last few stops. He’s still a knowledgeable defender and sets good screens. If he focused on being the roll man in the pick and roll on offense and playing great defense while grabbing rebounds, then he could still be a useful player. However, he’s long insisted on getting post touches, which he’s never excelled at, and as the other parts of his game have faded it’s tougher to see where he fits in, particularly after another injury.
His athleticism is far from what it once was. He isn’t the rim protector he once was, lacking the quickness that made him an incredible help defender. He can’t dunk like he used to and anytime he misses a shot, the offense sprints back the other direction cause they know he’s too slow to get back in time to prevent the 5-on-4 fastbreak. He’s not who he once was and like so many stars seems to struggle with accepting that and adjusting to a style of play that would result in fewer minutes, but possibly an extended career.
Howard is going to turn 34 next season. With all the injuries and his drop off as a player, we could be looking at the end of Howard’s polarizing career. There’s no guarantee he’s going to retire at the end of this season, as he holds a player option to stay in Washington. It’s very possible he exercises that option to battle back from this injury and prove his usefulness once again — or, at least, get a more proper send off. However, if this is the end, it’s a sad, quiet one for a player who was once of the league’s most dominant forces.