It has been quite the eventful summer for center Dwight Howard. Dwight has attended his charity basketball camps, released a new PEAK line of peak shoes, and commented on one day entering an MMA or WWE wing. Just last week, he was hospitalized in China due to dehydration. However, his biggest news this summer came during free agency when he signed with the Atlanta Hawks on a 3 year, $70.5 million deal.
For the last decade, the Atlanta Hawks have been a solid contender with a steady roster capable of having winning seasons and making the playoffs. However, they have not been championship contenders and have particularly struggled to defeat Eastern Conference teams with go-to superstars. Hawks fans had to bid farewell to fan favourite Al Horford after he agreed to sign with the Boston Celtics. The Hawks have always had a well-balanced roster, with Horford being the key member of the core. The 4x all-star has averaged 14.3 points and 8.9 rebounds since coming into the NBA back in 2007. The Hawks made the playoffs every season since led by a well-balanced line-up attack. In fact, 4 Hawks made the all-star team just two seasons ago and drew comparisons to the 2004 Pistons. Unfortunately, they always failed to advance out of the East including being eliminated by the Cavaliers the last 2 seasons. It was clear that change was necessary.
The first major move was trading former all-star point guard Jeff Teague to make room in the starting line-up for the rising Dennis Schroder. 5 days later, Dwight Howard signed with his hometown team. Four years ago, this would have been a blockbuster signing that would have generated quadruple the amount of media attention. Dwight was a 3-peat Defensive Player of the Year who used to average 22.9 points, 14.1 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game. He also put the Orlando Magic in constant contention, even reaching the Finals back in 2009. Then frustrations and lack of team support began to boil over and Dwight requested a trade out of Orlando. Since then, his career has gone straight down hill. After being dealt to the L.A. Lakers, Dwight noticeably struggled playing alongside superstar Kobe Bryant and the Lakers were swept in the first round. Dwight then signed with his 3rd team in as many seasons by joining the Houston Rockets. He once again struggled being a second fiddle, as many reports surfaced of issues between him and all-star James Harden.
Battling back issues and failing to develop chemistry with teammates had Dwight Howard labelled as just another player in the league. However, he is still one of the best two-way big men in the league and one of the few centers capable of taking over a game. So now that Dwight has a fresh start and a new opportunity to regain dominance in the NBA, it is time for redemption in Atlanta. The Eastern Conference is getting more competitive, with the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, and New York Knicks making big off-season moves in hopes of advancing out of the East. The Toronto Raptors will be entering the season with a new power of confidence and the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons appear to be on the rise. Let’s not forget Paul George is still one of the best players in the league and Chris Bosh has been medically cleared to play again. In summary, after LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the rest of the Eastern Conference standings are up for grabs.
Hawks fans have reasons to be optimistic for the upcoming season, especially with videos surfacing of Dwight Howard developing a perimeter jump shot and improving his free throws. If these two weaknesses can become strengths for Dwight, then he is more than capable of becoming the 20-10 player that he used to be. Every big man needs a spot-up shooter capable of spreading the floor and giving them space to operate. Why not have one of the most accurate 3 point shooters in the history of the NBA named Kyle Korver. On the defensive end, Dwight will have two other all-defensive players in Thabo Sefalosha and Paul Millsap.
Dwight Howard will always be that goofy big man who smiles when given technical fouls, trolls trash talkers on Twitter, and makes the most fun out of every situation. However, his focus needs to be on basketball if he wishes to redeem himself and put Atlanta Hawks in serious championship contention. Hawks management has invested a lot of money and trust in Dwight to hopefully end a nearly 60 year NBA Championship drought. Now, it is all on him.