Because Dwight Howard remains very much in play as a looming NBA free agent (come next July) and trade target (on the clock right now), his future whereabouts will continue to drive speculation and media content. Until he lands somewhere and inks a fresh contract to stay put for the next four or five years.
In the meantime, we all can connect the dots around Howard and various destinations, weighing whatever tangibles or intangibles exist or might matter at the time. Climate, maybe. Or market size. Or show-biz opportunities. Or coach. Or a hundred other things that might matter when the presumably-soon-to-be-former Orlando center settles in somewhere new (unless of course those don’t matter at all and he doesn’t).
Relationships with his teammates and Howard’s personal roots in Atlanta were the factors that drove Alex Kennedy’s piece for Hoopsworld, with Kennedy noting the big man’s friendliness with Hawks forward Josh Smith and newly acquired swingman Anthony Morrow. That and the childhood Howard logged there.
Howard grew up in Atlanta and many of his relatives still reside in Georgia. He developed into one of the best high school players in recent memory at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, where he averaged 25 points, 18 rebounds, 8 blocks and 3.5 assists and led the team to the Class A state championship during his senior season. Howard was named Georgia’s Mr. Basketball in 2004, and he still spends some time in Atlanta during the offseason and his foundation occasionally holds events in the region.
Not only do the Hawks have the cap space and hometown ties to recruit Howard, they also have two of his closest friends on their roster. Josh Smith and Anthony Morrow have known Howard for years and they could help the Hawks lure the big man next summer.
Smith, who also grew up in Atlanta, has known Howard since preschool. They joke that they’ve been balling together since they were in diapers. The two boys remained friends as they completed grade after grade and started developing into the physical specimens we see today. They formed one of the best AAU duos in the nation and talked about someday playing together in the NBA. When Smith got married two years ago, Howard was the best man in his wedding. Smith admits that he would love to reunite with Howard in Atlanta.
“Who wouldn’t want a guy like that on your team?” Smith said of Howard when HOOPSWORLD caught up with him in Las Vegas. “He’s the best big man in the league. I’d love to have him. Who wouldn’t? He’s the most dominant big in the game right now.
“We do have a lot of money coming off the books, especially after this year. I don’t know what the plans are. I guess every team that’s unloading money, the media thinks they’re targeting Dwight.”
Smith said that if Howard were to join the Hawks, it’d be “icing on the cake.”
The tricky part is, what Smith and Morrow (who considers Atlanta his second home after four years at George Tech, during which he too became a fixture on the basketball scene there) actually say is little different from what players all over the NBA say about Howard.
Said Morrow: “With me and Josh having a relationship with Dwight, it’s a possibility. It’s always a possibility, but that’s something that they’ll have to take care of upstairs.”
In other words, any team that will have the cap space needed to fit in Howard’s max salary and isn’t located in one of his forbidden zones (at which we can only guess) could say the exact same thing.
Eventually what will matter in this soap opera is the words and wishes that come out of Howard’s mouth, not stuff said by his friends, his family or any other folks near his hometown or anywhere else.