Red94 is a Houston Rockets site, read by Houston Rockets fans. And so, there are truths which Rockets fans know about their team which other NBA fans and analysts do not.
But as we possibly look at the end of the Dwight Howard era in Houston, there is one pernicious myth that has consistently endured, and just accepted as a matter of fact by those who do not follow the Houston Rockets. It is that Dwight Howard somehow, someway, is a chemistry-killer.
And nothing could be further from the truth. In his three seasons with the Rockets, Dwight Howard has been a consummate professional, willing to do whatever is needed to help Houston win. He has arguably been Houston’s best player during this disaster of a season, being the only one willing to contribute anything towards defense. There is a reason that while Howard is more likely to be traded, Rockets fans seem to be more interested in discussing the possibility of trading Harden.
So, it is time to set the record straight, look back on Howard’s past three seasons, and show that he is not the player – no, the man – that everyone seems to think he is.
Let us start by looking at the chemistry thing. On Monday, Bill Simmons advocated a ludicrous trade where among other parts, the Rockets would get Joe Johnson’s corpse and Mason Plumlee in exchange for Howard and Ty Lawson. Simmons first defended the trade by noting that it would put Houston under the luxury tax. But then he went on to say that getting rid of Howard and Lawson might improve the chemistry, and that Houston might be a better team with Capela and Plumlee “from a karma standpoint.”
And Simmons is hardly alone on this. USA Today suggested that if the Boston Celtics were to trade for Dwight, that move would risk Boston’s chemistry because of what Howard has done in Houston. Anytime things have gone the slightest bit wrong with the Rockets, you can almost certainly find some outsider writing an essay on how the Houston chemistry has gone wrong thanks to Howard. Like Fran Blinebury, who apparently for at least a year just sat on the news that Howard and Harden were trying to get the other traded after the Lillard shot.
But what has Dwight actually done as a Rocket to merit this reputation as a chemistry problem? Yes, his free agency years were ugly as was his time with the Lakers. He did not want to be with the Lakers, and his actions during free agency were not the smartest.
But that was three years ago. The reality is that over his three years with the Rockets, Howard has been nothing but a classy and great player for the Rockets. And as the Harden-Howard era draws to a close, he is the last person who should be blamed for things going wrong.
To begin with, Howard has shown a willingness to accept his role as the second star to Harden as his playing style has declined. Remember that when Howard first came to the Rockets, there was talk about how Kevin McHale and Hakeem Olajuwon would teach him post-up moves which would turn him into a true superstar.
This was nonsense, and anyone with the slightest basketball sense knew that. But self-delusion is not a quantity in short supply among NBA stars. So Howard got his touches in the post at first, they did not create a reliable offense as everyone expected…
And so he stopped doing it. Oh sure, he had the post-up now and then. But that is to be somewhat expected when Houston has as few offensive options as they have had over these years. The point is that Howard’s post-ups have declined, and he has shown the willingness to work in the pick and roll like critics were always saying he should. Just look at how Howard and Josh Smith destroyed the Dallas Mavericks last year.
But in situations where his post offense was actually needed, Howard rose to the occasion. And that’s the other thing about how Howard has been so great for this Rockets team. He carried the Rockets in 2013-2014 against the Portland Trail Blazers, and if Harden had played at even 70 percent of his normal capabilities, Houston would have won that series.
In 2014-2015, he was also great. He played injured against Golden State, was on the floor during that incredible Game 6 comeback against the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Josh Smith-Dwight Howard thing just broke Dallas’s back in that game. Howard has been a total team player on the court, who is willing to limit his touches like people said he should have.
This team has steadily moved more and more in Harden’s favor with Howard playing a secondary role. If Howard was really the immature brat like people claim he is, he would have pouted. He would have demanded more touches, or complained to the media, or demanded a trade. Perhaps he could have acted more like a certain other superstar who told Howard that he would still be dominating the Lakers even after he tore his Achilles.
Even after this season has collapsed worse than any Rocket fan’s worst nightmares, Howard is the last player you can blame for how things have turned out. While Beverley, Ariza, and Harden have all taken massive step backs on defense, Howard is probably the only thing which has kept Houston from having the outright worst defense in the league.
And even now, Howard has not complained about how things have worked. On the contrary – he and Dan Fegan have made it clear that he wants things to work out with the Rockets.
So, to everyone outside the Rockets world who talks of how Howard is a selfish chemistry killer, or is to somehow for blame for things going wrong on this team, or who insinuates that this team would be better off without him?
Howard may no longer be a superstar. But unlike those who just read headlines or watch a few games a season, sensible Rockets fans should know that Dwight Howard has been nothing but graceful over these past three years. He has left everything on the floor for this team, and is a terrific teammate who has done so much for this organization.