The Rockets have moved onward and upward from the Dwight Howard days. There was an initial modicum of success, followed by a collapse into mediocrity. But since getting rid of Howard, the Rockets secured a 55-win season, and have now added future Hall-of-Fame guard Chris Paul to an already potent offensive attack. Houston has been in fine shape since the Howard breakup.
D-12, however, has faced somewhat of a different road. After signing a multi-year deal with his hometown Atlanta Hawks upon leaving Houston, Howard again underperformed. His numbers with the Hawks were virtually identical to the line he was putting up during his last year in Houston.
But Howard often sat during the fourth-quarter in Atlanta, and with the Hawks not able to trust him to close out games, they dealt him to Charlotte in the offseason.
Howard claims to be looking forward to a fresh start with the Hornets, but in typical D-12 fashion, he’s been blaming everyone else for his slippage over the last few years, including the Houston Rockets.
In a recent interview with Adrian Wojnarowski, Howard had this to say:
"I haven't had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando. The fact that I played with a Kobe [Bryant], a James [Harden], and they were ball-dominant, affected me. But I've been in this system before, and I know how dominant I can be. I think I'm smarter now, and that is going to allow me to use my quickness and explosiveness in a better way."
Howard seems to conveniently forget that he would have had plenty of opportunities in Houston to contribute more offensively had he just been willing to run the pick and roll. In his final year with the Rockets, Howard ran as the roll man only 91 times in 71 games. As a comparison, Howard’s replacement, Clint Capela, ran the pick and roll 200 times in just 65 games this past season.
But despite those facts, Howard is still angry about not being involved in more post-ups in both Houston and in Atlanta. This ignores that Howard finished in just the 37th percentile in point per possession (0.84) on that play type this past season, and he was just as bad in the post during his final year with the Rockets as well.
"Teams wanted me to do different things than they promised me when I went to choose them. In Atlanta, I was going to be involved in the offense. Then, toward the end of the season, it turned into, 'Hey, we just got you for defense and rebounds.'
"What people don't understand from the outside is that, 'Oh, he isn't getting shots so his game is declining,' and that always goes back to opportunity and system. Players thrive with an opportunity and system.
"I have always thought: All I have to do is win. I thought the situation in Houston was going to be great. But that last year just wasn't there. We started out super good here in Atlanta, and I thought, 'This is it. It's all about to change.' And then, it didn't."
So as D-12 moves into the twilight of his career with a franchise that’s had just five winning seasons since the year 2000, while the Rockets move in the other direction as one of the potential top teams in the league, take note of their fortunes.
Nothing has changed for Howard since leaving H-town. The Rockets, on the other hand, are considerably better off. And if all it took was one .500 season to cut out the negative piece, then the lost year of 2015-2016 was worth it for the Rockets in the long run.