When the Charlotte Hornets traded for Dwight Howard this past summer, they took a huge gamble on a former star. They did not really give up much for Howard, only an overpaid Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli, and a late second round pick. Over the past few seasons, Howard had also gained the reputation of being a bad teammate, and not working hard enough at practices. It seemed as though Howard had lost all love for the game of basketball the moment he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012, and has caused trouble at every career stop since then, from Houston to his hometown Atlanta Hawks.
Howard would later say that Lakers legend Kobe Bryant broke him mentally, asking for impossibilities from the young center from the minute Howard came to Los Angeles. His production and motivation fell off from that year, and the former hasn’t truly recovered. In Houston, Howard was a key player on a playoff team, but he did not get along with many of his teammates in the process. Most notably, Howard was benched for the playoffs in his last season with the Rockets, 2015-16. In the 2016-17 season, Howard expected a homecoming in Atlanta would help him regain his form and more importantly, his motivation. Howard saw a more limited role in Atlanta last season, but still averaged a double-double on the fifth best team in the Eastern Conference. However, he did not make many friends in Atlanta, with it being reported that his former Hawks teammates rejoiced when they found out that Howard was traded to Charlotte.
In Charlotte, Howard has been reunited with head coach Steve Clifford. Clifford was a top assistant in Orlando during the best years of Howard’s career, and knows how to get the most out of the big man. Howard seems to be benefiting from the reunion with Clifford, with Howard averaging almost 15 points and 13 rebounds per game. Adjusted to 36 minute averages, this is Howard’s third best scoring season since leaving Orlando in 2012. As for rebounding, 2017-18 so far is the best season he’s had since leaving Orlando. More important is the way Howard is playing basketball. He finally looks like he’s enjoying playing again. He’s been playing with more confidence, and his production on the court shows this.
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