Back in December, rumors began to surface about Dwight Howard's unhappiness in Houston. Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com was the first to break the story, and naturally, mostly due to Dwight's past reputation and the precedent he set in his other NBA stops, it spread expeditiously.
"Dwight Howard is extremely unhappy in Houston playing second fiddle to alpha dog James Harden... and look for (the Rockets) to try to move Howard later this season."
...were met with a categorical denial by Howard, who went so far as to call the rumors of his dissatisfaction flat-out "lies" to the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen.
I also covered it myself back on December 17, dubbing this season as another sequel to the dreaded Dwightmare saga.
Backlash ensued. Rockets fan hate mail flowed to my inbox like the dark side through Anakin, and I even took some criticism here on my home blog for perpetuating "unfounded rumors" against one of our very own boys in red.
Seems a silly point of contention now in retrospect, doesn't it?
As we've come to find out, not only did Howard directly approach GM Daryl Morey about his lack of post touches, he proceeded to sulk and pout away large chunks of the season when he was told by Morey that additional post work just wasn't in the cards for Howard in this system, as covered by Ethan here on TDS just last week.
Howard admitted both to complaining about his involvement and also to becoming "disinterested" when he didn't hear what he wanted to hear from Morey, and that disinterest was recently just backed up by one of Howard's closest friends on the squad.
So not only was the original report of D-12's unhappiness likely not "lies" as it was characterized by Howard, it now appears that Howard was the one actually doing the lying. He was unhappy. It's one thing to keep rifts in house. It's another entirely to go on a false offensive.
Also keep in mind that D-12 started off the season still working himself into shape. He was sitting back-to-backs until mid November, which, if we follow the timeline set by the original Sheridan report that leaked in early December, means that after less than a month of actual 100-percent, full-time action, Howard was already moaning to the GM about his touches.
And not only that, he didn't snap out of his funk until the playoffs. From an incident that happened in December.
Then the 30-year-old, 12-season veteran had neither the maturity, self-awareness nor the humility to handle his current situation with grace or with class, and proceeded to become a locker room distraction off the court (how many rumors of chemistry issues did we hear this year? Not enough fingers and toes) and slog through his worst season since his rookie year on the court.
Sure, it wasn't all bad. Many nights, Howard looked like he was the only Rocket who even knew how to play defense, but that is more a testament to how much the entire Houston team slipped than to any elite-level defensive play by Howard. And he did have series of 10 straight double-doubles in late December/early January that culminated in a 36-point, 26-rebound performance against the Clippers (a Rockets loss, mind you), where it seemed he may have finally gotten himself over the hump.
But as the season dragged on, most games, Howard's lack of energy and focus were obvious. While many pegged a slippage in his physical prowess — the big man has been battling major back, knee and shoulder issues over the last several season- it appears that Dwight's mental and emotional state had as much to do with any overall regression as his physical state.
And their comes a point in time where one has to realize that this is just what comes with the Dwight Howard package. Each Howard relationship at every stop he's made in the Association has ended in dysfunction. Orlando with Stan Van Gundy, the Lakers with Mike D'Antoni and Kobe Bryant and now the Rockets with James Harden, Daryl Morey and J.B. Bickerstaff (who Howard likely undermined by going straight to Morey with his complaints rather than through his head coach). At some point, that culpability has to fall back on Dwight. That moment is now.
The Rockets realized this themselves and unsuccessfully tried moving the Howard soap opera saga at this year's trade deadline, and surprisingly enough, another one of those "unfounded rumors" many were accused of perpetrating against Howard (including myself) were miraculously coming true. Houston was, in fact, trying to dump Howard after all.
Howard's now made three stops in his NBA career. At each stage, he either actively lobbied for his head coach to be fired/not hired (Van Gundy, D'Antoni) or had an indirect involvement with the end of their tenure through moodiness, sulking and uninspired play (Bickerstaff). At each stage, he denied. Denied he wanted Van Gundy gone, denied any rift with D'Antoni, denied any unhappiness in Houston. Each and every time, the rumors turned out to be true.
Don't forget, with Van Gundy, he lobbied for the Magic to chop him, saying he would only hang around if they abode his wishes. Orlando did, and Dwight left anyway.
That's 12 seasons, three teams, four coaches fired (don't forget Kevin McHale), three collapsed relationships now that he's thrown Rockets management under the bus, and zero championships.
Sure, I get it. The Dwightmare meme is long past played out. And even when it wasn't played out, it was also mostly pretty lame. But unfortunately for Howard, the Rockets and Rockets fans (not to mention the Magic and Lakers fans), those facts don't make it any less applicable or any less true.
The "Dwightmare" may be dumb, but Howard only brought it upon himself. And this ridiculous hullabaloo that seems to follow the big man at every, single stop is about to be another team's problem.