What Is Dwight’s Motivation?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’ve read for weeks now about the pros and cons of the franchises pursuing Dwight Howard in free agency.

His best chance to win a championship is with an up-and-coming outfit in Houston or even Golden State. He can earn more money if he sticks with Los Angeles and the Lakers. He’ll be most comfortable on the court in Atlanta with the hometown Hawks. He won’t play with a better partner in crime than Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas.

All of that is just theory, blind stabs in the free-agent dark as we await Howard’s final decision on where he will commit to playing the next four or five years of his career (a revelation that could come as soon as this afternoon). You can assign different attributes to each franchise, with the Lakers’ being able to offer an extra year and that extra cash being the only static variable on the list.

But what are Howard’s real goals? What’s his true motivation for dragging the world through this exhausting process? Does he rank championships above all things? Is it his legacy, the money, reclaiming his good reputation, the fame and all of the things he’s lost since forcing his way out of Orlando and into his current predicament?

His reason for leaving the Magic kingdom created for him in Orlando, where he seemed to have absolutely everything a superstar in pursuit of the ultimate glory could ask for, was the chance to seek his championship destiny in a place of his own choosing. He’d somehow grown tired of his surroundings — the new arena, a city filled with fans who adored him and applauded his every move on and off the court. The folks inside of the Magic organization tried to move heaven and earth to appease him, they even fired coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith, only to find out his heart simply wasn’t in Orlando.

Howard is still searching for the right fit, for inspiration. And it’s unclear if he’s going to find what he’s looking for among his current list of suitors.

It’s hard for Howard to get any more famous (or infamous, for some) than he already is. And he didn’t need Los Angeles or the Lakers to get there. He topped the list in All-Star votes two years ago, when he was still in Orlando and All-Star weekend was in his backyard. That wasn’t enough to convince him to stay.

His quality of life wherever he goes will be high. A multi-millionaire many times over already, life tends to be good for rich folks in all of his possible destinations. (Go ahead and rank the cities in any way you want, but ask yourself where you’d like to live and work with a new $89 million to $118 million contract to work with for the next four or five years.)

If he’s concerned strictly about championships, the Lakers are the one franchise on his list with a sustained history of not only competing for but winning championships. Would he have to play under a coach (Mike D’Antoni) he doesn’t vibe with and with another star (Kobe Bryant) who scolds him more than he’d like? Sure. But he wouldn’t be the first superstar to work under those sort of conditions. Besides, a little bit of external pressure might be good for Howard. It might push him in ways that no coach or teammates have previously.

The possibilities of Howard teaming up with James Harden and coach Kevin McHale in Houston or with Steph Curry and coach Mark Jackson in Oakland are endless. With two stars and a coach the caliber both of those options bring, with only the supporting cast needing to be sorted out, big things would certainly appear to be on the horizon. If the Rockets were to land Howard and his pre-school classmate, Josh Smith, that would instantly vault the Rockets into the championship conversation in the Western Conference. But neither franchise has sniffed championship-level play in the past decade. So any gamble Howard makes on either one of these options is little more than playing a hunch that things will turn out well because they look good on paper … the same way they did last summer when the Lakers started planning parades after snagging Howard and Steve Nash.

Teaming up with Nowitzki in Dallas makes all kinds of sense, if you’re the Mavericks. Dirk is still in top form at this stage of his career and has thrived with a dominant defensive big man (Tyson Chandler) and a solid supporting cast around him. The Mavericks have also stared down the reigning league kingpins in Miami, having beaten back LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat in The Finals in 2011. If a championship blueprint is what Howard is looking for, the Mavericks have the freshest one.

Howard’s hometown team has little to offer in the way of championship culture or infrastructure. They barely have enough players under contract right now to field a 3-on-3 team. So the appeal there would have to be strictly emotional and hinge on Howard being instrumental in helping craft the Hawks’ championship plans.

So in the end, we come right back to that same vexing question that has hung over Howard for the last 18 months.

What’s his motivation?

We won’t know the real answer until he makes his choice … which could be any minute now.


  1. […] What Is Dwight's Motivation?NBA.com (blog), on Fri, 05 Jul 2013 10:48:32 -0700What's his true motivation for dragging the world through this exhausting process? Does he rank championships above all things? Is it his legacy, the money, reclaiming his good reputation, the fame and all of the things he's lost since forcing his way … […]

  2. charles says:

    If howard signs with Golden State or Houston, they are the favorite in the west. I think with the signing of Iggy at Warriors, the idea of Harison barnes, Iggy, and Curry playing the guard and small forward spots is going to be very good for Howard who is not exactly full of offensive moves, but will turn Golden State into a beast!. If Curry and Iggy don’t steal the ball from you in the back court, Howard is sure to block it in the interior….that will be a tough team to beat.

  3. Deezie says:

    It really bothers me how ignorant a bunch of people sound in regards to Dwight staying in LA. “If he’s thinking championship then he won’t stay in LA”…. That sounds stupid where is going Boston cause that is the only franchise with more banners???? We consistently figure out how to compete and win championships and yea last year was a train wreck but don’t forget our track record…

  4. realist2013 says:

    Golden State butchering their team would be dumb. Lee was hurt, Curry was hurt so neither were 100%. Trading away a team that did that well against the Spurs is stupid. Having stars and no chemistry as I dont see them funtional with Howard. The Rockets, Harden is selfless and would welcome the inside out play as he moves well without the ball. McHale is a big mans coach. Money at this stage is automatic. Championships and discipline like Duncan displays and has displayed throughout almost 2 decades should be his focus. Parsons, Harden, Lin, Jones, potentially Smith and co thats a recipie for a legacy in the making.

  5. Davonte Charles says:

    Howard should just stay with the lakers he can earn more money than all the other teams and the lakers have more experience in the finals than the other teams

  6. ANDRES says:


  7. Short Memory says:

    It was only yesterday, although it does seem a century ago, that a heated debate, lead by heavyweights on either side of it, was raving about who the best Center was; Howard or Bynum ?

    Bynum, of course, did not play the entire last season and the debate died, defaulting in favor of Howard.

    All these people drooling over him … do they remember the moping, groping, plotting, conniving, bad-mouthing (and lying) player that he was in Orlando ? Do they remember he didn’t like his coach, he didn’t like his management … he didn’t like his teammates ?

    Does no one remember the praise he showered on the town and its people – only to leave them high and dry ?

    He complains when he doesn’t have ‘quality’ help. He complains when the ‘quality’ helpers try to help.

    Why is everybody throwing names ? Why is everybody counting who his teammates would be/could be ? Does he know (or care about) the names of his teammates from the last season ? Is he looking for a longer list ? A more illustrious list ?

    In the 5 million write-ups on this seasons free-agency, I haven’t seen a single other big man mentioned.

    C’mon guys ! There are a lot of … and I mean A LOT OF … talented, hard-working, sincere big men out there who bring an honest game to the floor each and every single time. Lets hear about them !

  8. ADblurrr says:

    Dwight should go to gsw and take less money starting 5 steph,tompsin,barnes,lee,and howard!!! Thats a killer starting!! And they have great fans and coach. Unlike lakers with sht coach and ageing players. Dont forget gsw could have gone to game 7 if spurs didint steal the first game and is a team tht were blowing out the spurs in some games. But if its money and not winning tht matters then he will stay in LA.who knows if kobe will come back the same he tore his achilles at age 34. I say sign howard then trade bogut for a sixth man jr smith and they have everthing they need a killer starting 5 with sixth man of the year jr smith also landry and get rid of bad contracts like jefferson and beiedren.

    • A Witness says:

      Jr has signed back to the knicks and this wouldnt make to goto GSW he wouldnt get the ball they dont run the Triangle offense their a shoot first team David lee barely got to post up last season he needs to goto Houston GSW only look good on paper dallas is a horrible option D Antoni is going to run L.A into the ground

  9. Cuki says:

    LA Lakers ! 🙂 2014 will be his season !

  10. Dwight’s motivation obviously is to find a place where he can win championships and be THE MAN not piggyback riding to other players…he wants to dominate

    • Chris says:

      He had the opportunity to lead his team to a ring in Orlando and it didn’t work. I don’t think that’s it. I’m thinking the pressure in LA is too much for him. He wants to win and wants to be the focal point of the offense, but ironically, doesn’t want all the pressure that comes with leading a team like LA, where the expectation is to win nearly every year. I think he’s talking about wanting to win rings, but deep down, he just wants to be in a market where he has the opportunity to win. And then isn’t criticized so much when he doesn’t win. Good luck finding a market like that… the reality is, he wants a situation that doesn’t exist.

      • Rockets says:

        Dwight, please do not bring any drama to the Rockets. We don’t need any of your baby whine. Just do your part and stay out of James Harden way. He is far more skillful and should be the main focal, not you!