Hawks’ signing of Howard: Wrong player, wrong time (updated)

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) reacts after being called for a foul in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Dwight Howard, an Atlanta native who spent the past three seasons with the Houston Rockets, reportedly has agreed to a three-year, $70 million contract with the Hawks. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Hawks are signing Dwight Howard. For three years. In 2016.

This is not a fire drill. It might be an actual fire.

This isn’t the Dwight Howard who was a perennial All-Star for most of his career in Orlando and led the Magic to the finals once, even while some believed he underachieved for a player of his size and skill.

This the Dwight Howard who looked like a petulant 6-year-old on the way out the door in Orlando and likely got coach Stan Van Gundy fired. This is the Dwight Howard who had one ill-fated season with the Los Angeles Lakers and frustrated the team’s leader, Kobe Bryant (back when the Lakers still were somewhat the Lakers and Kobe was still somewhat Kobe). This is the Dwight Howard who certainly did nothing to distinguish himself for three years in Houston, instead showing himself to be on the downside of his career.

I don’t get it.

I’m sure Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer and general manager Wes Wilcox, the two men entrusted to build and maintain the roster since the Danny Ferry was put in season-long purgatory and eventually fired after last year, will tell us they have a plan. They will try to convince the masses this is the right move for this franchise at this time.

Good luck with that.

Question: What does this mean for free-agent center Al Horford? Because if Budenholzer has actually made the decision to move on from one of the most respected and well-liked players in the NBA in Horford and replace him with one of the most lampooned and disliked players, that’s not going to play well. Not in the locker room and not in the stands.

UPDATE: The Hawks, somewhat surprisingly, have come to terms with small forward Kent Bazemore, giving him a whopping four-year, $70 million contract. That could pave the way for Horford’s exit. The Hawks in theory could trade Paul Millsap and move Horford to power forward but that would mean having three new huge contracts on the front line (Howard, Bazemore, Horford). Horford has a variety of options in a signing or a sign-and-trade but Boston has been central to most of the speculation, followed by Houston.

If the Hawks still intend to re-sign Horford and envision a lineup with Horford and Howard together, co-existence — both on and off the court — becomes an interesting dynamic. I’m not using “interesting” in a positive way there.

Let’s be clear: Howard still has some skills. He’s on the wrong side of 30, but he can rebound and play defense and provide the Hawks with the physical presence up front that they’ve sorely missed. But to assume this can work is to assume Howard suddenly has been humbled and is ready to co-exist in a team climate.

Is there any evidence to suggest that, because maybe I missed it.

Two years ago, the Hawks won 60 games, reached the Eastern Conference finals and evolved into one of the NBA’s most likable teams and certainly the most watchable product in Atlanta pro sports. In the season that just ended, they slipped to 48 wins and a second-round exit. Now they’ve signed a player who for the past five years has been mocked more than he has been praised.

“Dwight Howard keys turnaround” is a storyline that reads more like fantasy than fact.

This might be the Hawks’ plan but it doesn’t look like a plan for success. It looks like a plan for disaster.

When Van Gundy said Howard wants him fired

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45 comments
DalePendergraft
DalePendergraft

Schultz

Horford passed up a good deal on a better team.  For a player that is not a true elite player, he should have jumped on that deal. The hawks can sign someone with similar stats for a lot less money, and not have to get rid of any more players. I understand the leadership factor, but Budenholzer can fill that void. I hope the next article we read is focuses on who they are going after now to fill the spot left open by Horford. I would like to through a name in the hat. Gasol from Chicago. I will let you analyze the cap hit that would take. He has better stats and would fit Budenholzer style of offense. With Dwight and another tall inside presence that creates double teams, Budenholzers three point shooting offense will thrive. This is my first post, so i hope to see your response. 

DrTruth
DrTruth

@DalePendergraft Lots of teams interested in the Hawks former 1st round pick....My guess is the Hawks aren't one of them.

Repartee
Repartee

Dwight is a free throw certified brick mason. You would think that a guy making that much loot could make a free throw.

BP80
BP80

First: I like Jeff Schultz. Next: This is a dumb take. I'm really excited about this move. Maybe late-stage Kobe and Harden were terrible, terrible teammates. We will find out whether Dwight was a "cancer" soon enough. Hawks showing some cajones. Good on them.

dtanner311
dtanner311

dead on jeff, howard is underachieving, troublemaking cancer to a team

KBP
KBP

I cannot believe how so many people are enamored with Al. He is a career 14 and 9 guy with a nice mid-range game that he is no longer interested in based on the number of 3's he takes. Dwight is a better center than Al and Millsap is a better power forward than Al. Shroeder, Hardaway, Bazemore, Millsap, and Howard is a better starting 5 with Howard at the 5 than with Al at the 5.

MikeS777
MikeS777

@KBP yeah i dont understand it either.   Horford is not a center, and Millsap is a better PF than Horford.  Howard is likely to give the Hawks just as much scoring as Horford, but it will be from the inside.   His inside scoring will open up opportunities for shooters and often draw double teams.   He will also rebound and truly anchor the middle.

MikeS777
MikeS777

Well with the Hawks signing Bazemore, this probably means Horford is gone.   So you're starting 5 will be Schroder, Korver, Bazemore, Millsap, Howard.    I still think that's an upgrade.   Look, Horford is a good player, but he's not that great at center.   We saw that in the playoffs.  He averages just 8 rpg as a center which is awful.   He was not aggressive this past year in the middle.  He takes outside shots mostly, and was missing them against the Cavs.   Horford always was a bit of a patch job at Center.   If nothing else, Howard is a legit center with a center mentality.   By default, he is going to do all the things people were frustrated at Horford for not doing.   And Howard with Splitter off the bench should solve the Hawks inside issues.

I also can't help but think the Hawks have an eye on next summer here.   I don't believe this was a choice between Horford and Howard.   I think it was a choice between Horford and Millsap.   Millsap can opt out next summer for big money.  If they give Horford a max deal this summer, they very likely lose Millsap next summer because there won't be enough money to sign him.   Millsap is easily the more productive of the two.    So by not giving Horford max money, they can sign Millsap next summer or some other free agent if Millsap still leaves.

They will also have other concerns next summer, they need to find a backup PG this summer, and maybe look at signing Humphries back.    So you have to ask, was Horford good enough to mortgage the rest of the team for?   I think the answer is no.

peanutgallery
peanutgallery

Getting rid of Danny Ferry was the first mistake. Everyone seems to forget he was the one responsible for creating that 60 win Eastern Finals team.


His only "mistake" was not saying anything about words that didn't even come out of his mouth. Did anyone else in that meeting get canned? Nope. 


This team is headed back to mediocrity.

lewis88
lewis88

Solid moves, Schultz is always wrong when it comes to the NBA

ShaneFalco
ShaneFalco

I really don't get why Schultz and Cunningham are crapping on this move.   Hawks, as they were contructed in 2014-2016 were a good team that would never get over the hump - will they now?  maybe not but at least they will have fixed a major flaw in their lineup and be able to rebound.  When the Hawks made the cheap PC move to fire him, I was sorry to see Danny Ferry go - BUT  - it should be noted that one of Ferry's first moves when he came to Atlanta was to try and convince Dwight Howard to join the Hawks in free agency 3 years ago.   Think about it - Dwight Howard is the biggest superstar to sign a free agent contract with an Atlanta team since Greg Maddux in 1994.   Howard has put up really good numbers - even through injuries of last few years - he is 30 years old - not 33/34 - and we only signed Superman to a 3 year deal - where is the downside? Coach Bud knows how to run a team and an offense/defense - why does Jeff Schultz and Michael Cunningham - sportswriters for a dying newspaper,  know more than Coach Bud? - Exactly!!!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@ShaneFalco: "I really don't get why Schultz and Cunningham are crapping on this move."

_________________

At least Schultz has the integrity/professionalism to allow comments on his opinions--unlike the gutless Cunningham.

phildis
phildis

Who cares about Danny ferry now. He spoke ill of an fellow alum blue devil. Move on he landed on his feet again.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO

Those are different animals in the comment arena--thanks to the moronic creation of (barf) "DawgNation."

DrTruth
DrTruth

FUN FACTS you may not know about the newest Atlanta Hawk:


*  Howard has at least 8 kids with 8 different Baby Mamas.

*  He has a collection of more than 50 guns, including miniguns & bazookas.

*  He has 20 pet snakes.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgBl-_QvoC0  Howard does some "funny" things.  You may chuckle....You may not.

patriotdog
patriotdog

Well, you and Bradley were at the head of the "Fire Ferry" journalistic lynching, even as we read in others' work that the letter was written by, and its thoughts formulated by, an unknown scout.

Now he's gone and Coach Bud is making personnel decisions. This is predictable. Congratulations.

Gman84
Gman84

Classic Atlanta sports fail

ChrisRMurphy
ChrisRMurphy

This has the smell of a desperate, new owner.

SebGuy
SebGuy

As opposed to what exactly? If he can play, and you concede he still can, then this is, at the very least, protection against Al deciding to move on.


I don't get these people arguing that the Hawks should keep Kent and AL, add a point guard and see what happens again when they are matched against the Cavs, or Raptors, who both dominate the Hawks in the middle.


The Hawks now need to keep Al and add some players who can shoot and create their own shot.

MikeS777
MikeS777

Thinking about it too, Jeff I think you had a column about whether the Hawks could be a big time free agent destination.   Well, if Howard does revive his career, there may end up being some big free agents next year or the year after that will now start to take a look at Atlanta.   This would be especially true if they sign Horford, then really make some noise again this year.

They have the SA system, and now have the big center talent in the middle of it.   It's got to start somewhere, and Howard could be the start.

MikeS777
MikeS777

Thought I'd also point out that Horford and Howard are both 30 years old.  Millsap is 31, so age is not a factor here.

And again, the 48 wins was mostly due to early season adjustments.   They were the best defense in the NBA after the All Star break, and only exited in the 2nd round because that's where they met Cleveland.   They would have gotten swept the year before in the 2nd round by Cleveland too.

At least this team had a lead or were tied late in the 4th in 3 of the 4 games, despite Cleveland setting the single game 3pt shots made record and record for 3s made in a series.

DawgNole
DawgNole

So what do you want? More of the same?

Forty-eight years and counting without so much as a sniff of the NBA Finals.

ZERO championships for the ATL Hawks in half a damn century--just like every other ATL pro team (excepting the '95 Braves).

I'm way beyond sick of it myself, and the status quo, which is what we've been fed for 5 long decades, ain't gonna cut it.

Proud of the Hawks for at least acting like they're serious about winning a championship. Helluva lot more than can be said for the rest of Losersville's losers!

If the Howard experiment fails, so what?! We sure the hell weren't going anywhere without him.


MikeS777
MikeS777

@DawgNole yeah and that "experiment" put up 13.7 ppg and 11.8 rpg for a Houston team last season that was a dumpster fire haha.    I wish all experiments put up numbers like that.  I think this is a great move for the Hawks.

SebGuy
SebGuy

@MikeS777 @DawgNole Yeah let's give overweight, got his coach fired, ball-hogging turnover machine, James Harden a pass. Ask Kevin McHale who was the problem in Houston.

TheUltimateMale
TheUltimateMale

@DawgNole  Listen to this guy, Schultzie. As a UGA football fan, DawgNole knows a chronically underachieving operation when he sees one.

MikeS777
MikeS777

Apparently the Hawks dug in deep to see if Howard would fit into the locker room and found a lot of the talk about him to be just that...talk.   And even since leaving Orlando he has averaged 15ppg and over 11rpg.  That's better numbers than Horford and as good as Whiteside who are both commanding max deals.   But the Hawks aren't having to pay near max money for Howard.  So if that's what he does with "issues", what is he going to do if he legitimately steps up and becomes part of the team?

Besides, the Hawks still have the cap room to sign Horford.  If they can convince Horford to stay, they can move Millsap to SF and put Horford at his natural PF position.   Schroder, Kover, Millsap, Horford, Howard...tell me that's not an upgrade...please try haha.

And if they lose Horford which has always been a possibility, then you still have Millsap/Howard on the front line and money enough to secure Millsap next summer.   Millsap can opt out next summer for big money.

If they sign Horford as well as Howard, and Millsap leaves next summer, then you still have Horford and Howard as a front line.

This was a great move all around for the Hawks.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@MikeS777

Don't often agree with you, triple 7, but you nailed this one.

Even espn, certainly no lover of ATL sports, reports that the Hawks did their due diligence on this deal.

Hopefully the "hometown factor" will supply the level of motivation for Howard that other cities couldn't.

MikeS777
MikeS777

@DawgNole @MikeS777 yeah I hope so too, and really LA and Houston were not good situations at all.   It wasn't his fault either.  Dealing with Kobe in LA on a disintegrating team, and Houston was a powder keg just waiting to explode.   Yet he still put up numbers as good as centers getting max money this summer.

RTPIV
RTPIV

@MikeS777 AND this might be what it takes to keep Horford. He can shift to forward, his natural position, and know that the Hawks have a chance to be better.

DrTruth
DrTruth

"Johnny Davis. Chris Jent. Bobby Hill. Stan Van Gundy. Mike Brown. Bernie Bickerstaff. Mike D’Antoni. Kevin McHale.

All of these guys have one thing in common — they were head coaches of Dwight Howard who lost their jobs in order to try and make Dwight Howard happy.

I mean, you would think that when coaches are having their agents negotiate these contracts they would throw a clause in there that says, “Won’t Coach Dwight Howard.” It’s career suicide at this point." http://thesixthirty.com/sports/dwight-howard-coach-killer/


Maybe Coach Bud just pulled the trigger on his career suicide....

SebGuy
SebGuy

@DrTruth If that happens, it would be a good thing because it would mean CMB made a horrible decision and shouldn't be coaching the Hawks.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@SebGuy It would be unique if President of Basketball Operations Bud had to fire Head Coach Bud in order to keep Howard happy.

PCEK
PCEK

Schultz, I don't want to hear you say anything about Danny Ferry! You were one of the main voices running him off. So, shut your mouth about the way Bud butchers his GM role. Would Ferry have made this move? Probably not. But you Schultz have no right to complain.

Gman84
Gman84

Danny Ferry isn't allowed to have the job he earned and excelled at because he once had thoughts that weren't PC. Hawks deserve to wallow in it

mar1049
mar1049

@Gman84 Ferry earned the job and then he earned his way right out of it. 

Sam Roberts
Sam Roberts

This means the Hawks will not make the playoffs this year.  Howard is a cancer.

khd713
khd713

I fail to see how exchanging Horford for Howard will change the Hawks' fortunes by any noticeable measure. It's hardly the disaster, or "fire", that Schultz paints it to be. Neither player is a superstar (anymore), and neither player has any chance of leading a team past the Cavs in the East. It's just a survival move that binds the Hawks to an aging, but still competent, player for three years instead of five, which is what it would have taken to keep Horford. In that regard the Hawks are better off. Now we bide time and assemble a young cast of talent while we wait for Lebron to become the next aging star.

MikeS777
MikeS777

@khd713 It might not be an exchange.   The Hawks still have cap room to sign Horford to a max deal.   or if they lose him, then they can use that money to secure Millsap next summer who can opt out for a big contract.