OKC Thunder: Dwight Howard's courting overshadows lack of leadership ability

COMMENTARY — Howard is sure to snag one of the richest contracts this offseason, but he is incapable of being the face of a franchise.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: July 2, 2013 at 11:00 am •  Published: July 2, 2013
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photo - Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard celebrates after hitting a three point shot during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 122-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)  ORG XMIT: LAS108
Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard celebrates after hitting a three point shot during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 122-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: LAS108

The Houston Rockets wined and dined Dwight Howard on Sunday night at a Beverly Hills restaurant where the cheapest salad on the menu is $18.

Here's guessing Howard had more than salad.

The wooing of the most prized big man in this year's free agent class will be pricey — and we're not just talking about the meals. Howard is sure to snag one of the richest contracts in the NBA when all is said and done.

Chances are good, it will be one of the Thunder's Western Conference foes that ultimately doles out the dollars for Howard. The Rockets, Mavericks and Lakers are reportedly at the top of the heap of about half a dozen teams that believe he is worth $20 million-plus a year.

Frankly, I don't get it.

Yes, Howard is arguably the most talented center in the league. He's averaged 18.3 points and 12.9 rebounds over the course of his nine-year NBA career.

But why are teams willing to pay a face-of-the-franchise salary for a guy who is clearly incapable of being the face of a franchise?

These past couple seasons have proved that he just can't be that guy.

Howard got crossways with then-coach Stan Van Gundy two seasons ago in Orlando. Howard asked higher-ups to fire Van Gundy. Van Gundy told the media that he knew about Howard's wishes, then Howard acted like he had no idea what anyone was talking about and denied those claims.

After the season, though, Van Gundy was fired.

General manager Otis Smith along with players J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson were also swept out of town by what one Orlando scribe called “Howard's egotistical tsunami.”

But in the end, it wasn't enough to keep Howard in Orlando. He still wanted out, a wish that was ultimately granted by Los Angeles.

Everything was going to be great for him in LaLa Land, too. Remember that Sports Illustrated cover with Howard and Steve Nash in their new Lakers uniforms?

“NOW THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN”, it screamed.

How'd that work out?

Howard feuded with Kobe. Disliked his role on the team. Played somewhat dispassionately after returning from back surgery.

Laker fans wondered if he even cared.

That concern was embodied in what might end up being his final game as a Laker. With a little less than 10 minutes remaining in a 103-82 loss to San Antonio that would complete the Spurs' sweep and end the Lakers' season, Howard picked up a second technical foul and an ejection from the game. He mouthed off. He got tossed.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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