The big news yesterday was a report coming from respected NBA journalist Chris Sheridan that Dwight Howard was unhappy playing in Houston and wanted out. And with the Rockets going nowhere fast and Howard holding a player option for next season and likely to opt out, the Rockets were inclined to move Howard before losing him for nothing after the season ends.
Sheridan points to Dwight's shrinking role in the Houston offense as the primary motivator for Howard's trade wishes and also lays out exactly how far the mighty have fallen this year:
"Through Monday night's games, he had attempted only 158 shots in 25 games, the sixth-highest total on the team behind James Harden (507), Trevor Ariza (252), Marcus Thornton (236), Corey Brewer (185), and Terrence Jones (176) and only 4 more attempts than the seldom-used Ty Lawson (154). So this makes Dwight the sixth option.
Our own Joshua Reese had the good fortunes of sitting down with Mr. Sheridan himself in a podcast yesterday, where Sheridan reiterated his story, telling the hosts:
"I stand by what I wrote... I have a lot of good sources around the league, and there's a lot of unhappiness in Houston... and it's because of the way the record has come about."
Sheridan also explained that he feels Dwight can still be dominant if used correctly — which means a lot of NBA teams likely feel the same way — and that it makes sense that the Rockets would look to move him if this is going to be a failed season and Dwight's not going to be more involved.
"I think the guy can still be a dominant center in this league. He's not going to be what he was when he was 25, but he can still be a guy who can get you 18 a night on a regular basis, and he can go for 30 every now and then if he's a featured player in the offense.
"If he's not a featured player in the offense, then why bother having him? He's just not the shot-blocker he once was."
Sheridan's initial report named the Miami Heat as a likely trading partner, who would include Hassan Whiteside in any deal with the Rockets in what would end up as a mega-blockbuster, but that seems to be the only part of this report based upon speculation and fit rather than solid evidence. Take a few and listen to Sheridan's talk with the Red and Orange Report. It's worth it.
For his part, Howard is vehemently denying any unhappiness with the situation, even going so far as to call the reports flat-out "lies" to the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen.
"I haven't said anything to anybody about anything. People make up lies and rumors. That's never been my focus. I'm trying to get these guys to play better and myself to play better.
"People are going to say what they got to say to get a story out. People are always going to come up with some rumor and lies. That's what is. I can't focus on that, and I don't want my teammates to focus on that."
Well, it's important to note that a similar scenario unfolded during Howard's time in Orlando, when Adrian Wojnarowski reported Howard was unhappy in Orlando and requested a trade, only mere days after Howard was telling the Orlando Sentinel:
"There's no place I'd rather be than right here in Orlando."
And we all know how that worked out.
The Magic fired head coach Stan Van Gundy at the end of the season in an attempt to convince Howard to stay, but he demanded and received a trade in the offseason anyway, heading to the Lakers in a multi-player, three-team deal that also involved the Philadelphia 76ers.
It's also possible both Sheridan and Dwight are correct. One prevailing theme back during the Orlando debacle was Howard's waffling between staying and going, with Woj also reporting:
"He runs hot and cold... he just doesn't always know what he wants."
One thing is for certain, however, and that is high drama seems to follow Howard around wherever he goes, and it doesn't seem to be ending any time soon in Houston. The Dwight Howard soap opera continues...