The days of waiting for an “athletic big” are over.
On Thursday morning, the Washington Wizards announced the signing of center Dwight Howard and with this act, their roster and locker room have officially become one of the most intriguing story lines of the 2018-19 NBA season.
Howard, 32, joins the Wizards on a one-and-one contract — after the conclusion of the season, he has an option to return or seek a new team in free agency — as the most decorated center the team has employed in years. Howard has earned eight all-star appearances and won the defensive player of the year award in three consecutive years from 2009-2011.
On the flip side, as the big man era has faded, Howard has been passed around the league. Washington will become his fourth team he has played on in the past four seasons. Along the way, Howard has bumped heads with superstar teammates Kobe Bryant and James Harden and his former point guard, Dennis Schroder of the Atlanta Hawks, questioned his effort level on a nightly basis, saying, “He plays always great against his former team . . . but that’s like four games each year, you know?”
Howard still appealed to the Wizards, who expect him to complete the starting lineup as the athletic big they’ve been searching for since John Wall specifically called for one at the end of last season.
“Dwight has been known throughout his career as one of the league’s best defenders, rebounders and finishers around the rim, all areas that we needed to improve heading into next season,” Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement. “His inside presence and athleticism will give us a much different look and will open up opportunities for us on both ends of the floor.”
During the 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Hornets, Howard averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game for one of his most productive statistical seasons in years. Steve Clifford, who has coached Howard for half of his 14-year career, was in Charlotte last year and believes his former player wants to have longevity.
“He’s in a good place and he’s very motivated,” Clifford said. “I think that he understands that he wants to play for a few more years and he’s putting a ton into this league.”