Everyone expects that Dwight Howard's seen his last game as a Rocket. Howard holds a player option for this coming season for $23 million, but the dysfunction this past year in Houston, of which D-12 was square in the middle of, combined with the unprecedented free agency bonanza on the horizon, it's easy to see why most figure Dwight for as good as gone.
The Rockets highly underachieved, there were rumors all season long of Howard and James Harden's inability to get along both on and off the court, and Howard finished with his both his lowest points per game (13.7) and fewest shot attempts per game (8.7) since his rookie season.
But in an interview last night on TNT, Howard insisted he has yet to make an official decision, telling Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, "That hasn't even crossed my mind," when asked if he had planned to exercise his right to be a free agent come the summer time.
When Barkley pressed later on, asking Howard, "Are you going to opt out or not," Dwight continued to insist the decision was up in the air, telling Barkley, "I haven't made any decision."
Though both Barkley and Smith did offer their unsolicited career advice, with Barkley saying, "He has to opt out, he knows that," citing the need for Howard to take care of himself financially first, while also advising him to make sure he "goes to a place he can win."
They're not the only ones who fully expect Howard to opt out, with ESPN's Calvin Watkins also reporting that it's widely assumed Howard will not pick up the team option, and we here at TDS have expected Howard to depart as well. But until it's officially decided, anything can happen, and Howard has until July 1st to announce his intentions.
There is a chance, however slight it is, that Howard's agent, Perry Rogers, gets wind that no one is willing to offer his client a huge deal, which is not completely out of the realm of possibility considering Howard's faltering league-wide reputation and that he's coming off his worst year since his initial season. It is possible that Les Alexander's $23 million to stay in Houston one more year represents both Howard's best financial option and his best option to win.
If Howard does leave, don't expect him to fetch the $30 million per year max. That's an astronomical number for a 30-year-old center with a bad back and knees on the downside of his career. Simply finding a suitable franchise willing to commit to the big man for multiple seasons will likely get it done, with a return to the Orlando Magic one of the top rumors being floated out there currently.
The TNT interview with Howard also touches on D-12's feelings about his public perception and James Harden, and Dwight comes across as honest, candid, and composed, even as Chuck and Kenny turned up the grill heat to broil.
It's worth the 15-minutes to watch and offer your own thoughts on Howard in the comments here below.