There are players that come into the NBA on a blast of youthful energy, making an immediate impact, attracting fans, altering franchises and becoming All-Stars.
Dwight Howard was such a player.
Which is why, with ESPN reporting Thursday that Howard is seeking a buyout from the Brooklyn Nets and expected to become a free agent, after which he would be available to the Warriors.
Some Warriors fans, perhaps visualizing what Howard once was, are rubbing their hands in hope that Howard would accept a veteran’s minimum contract to join the NBA champs. They remember the summer of 2013, when Warriors CEO Joe Lacob spearheaded an attempt to bring Howard to the Bay Area.
Others, paying closer attention and noting Howard’s precipitous decline, are waving their hands in protest.
While there is little question Howard could post better stats than any Warriors center in recent years, there is another factor the team has come to value as much or more that sheer numbers.
The term generally used is “fit.”And Howard, at age 32, doesn’t fit. Not anymore.
An eight-time All-Star at age 28, Howard was the centerpiece of an Orlando squad that made six consecutive playoff appearances, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009. The Magic were relevant largely because of its big man.
Howard underwent back surgery in April 2012, which is the last time the Magic appeared in the playoffs. He was traded four months later.
Orlando has not been the same team and Howard has not been the same player. He has slowly and steadily slid completely off the NBA’s star landscape.
He has played for four teams since the Magic. Howard has played for four teams in the last five seasons, three in the last four. He soon will be looking for his fifth employer -- counting his brief stay in Brooklyn -- over a five-year span.
There is a reason for that; Howard has become one of the league’s most polarizing players. The Warriors, once on a naked search for talent -- remember the truncated quest for Kevin Love -- have evolved enough to understand the impact of culture.
They’ve built it, which is why they can absorb JaVale McGee and maximize his talents. It’s why they took a gamble with Nick Young. Both are benign free spirits.
But culture, or chemistry, is precious and precarious. The wide range of opinions related to Howard around the league can’t be dismissed.
The Warriors, even with their commitment to getting younger, will need to add at least one veteran this summer. Making Howard that vet would be their riskiest move yet. They have ascended beyond the need for him.
As a basketball player, Howard’s game no longer lives up to his name.