BOSTON – Dwight Howard has reportedly begun the buyout process with the Brooklyn Nets, seeking to become a free agent this summer and in doing so, latch on with a title contender.
Several teams will vie for his services, including the Boston Celtics.
Remember, Howard was considered a “Plan B” option for Boston a couple years ago if the Celtics failed to land their top choice Al Horford who as it turned out, was replaced in Atlanta by Howard.
"I want to be in a situation where I have an opportunity to help a team win," Howard told ESPN’s Chris Haynes. "That's my only goal. All I need is a real chance and a clean slate where it's not people talking about my past."
Boston enters this summer looking to bolster its defensive presence in the middle with Aron Baynes and Greg Monroe both unrestricted free agents.
Monroe, who was acquired after he agreed to a buyout with the Phoenix Suns, is expected to play elsewhere next season.
But Baynes, an integral defensive stalwart for Boston this past season, is someone the Celtics would like to re-sign.
However, his emergence defensively this past season might make him too pricey for the Celtics.
And while it remains to be seen what Howard will be looking for salary-wise from Boston, a chance to play for a title contender might be enticing enough for him to come to terms on a salary that the Celtics feel comfortable with going forward.
The addition of the 32-year-old Howard would provide Boston with one of the better defensive centers over the past decade, in addition to an upgrade scoring-wise at the position.
Last season in Charlotte, Howard averaged a double-double of 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game which placed him prominently in the all-star discussion in February.
The top overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft by Orlando, Howard has been one of the league’s most decorated players since his arrival.
Howard is an eight-time all-star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to leading the NBA in rebounds five times and blocked shots twice along with several all-NBA selections.
His resume is impressive.
But throughout his career, Howard has often been cast as a player who doesn’t care enough about winning, isn’t a great leader and someone who’s more harmful than helpful to a locker room.
Those perceptions will certainly factor into whatever team decides to pursue him.
But to Howard’s credit, he’ll do what he can to show what folks have heard and what those around him say about him, are two completely different narratives.
Kent Bazemore is a former teammate of Howard’s in Atlanta.
"(Dwight's) gotten so much of a bad rap, but he's a great teammate," Bazemore told ESPN. "For such a long season, his energy and his laughing helps you get through. And if you're going through a tough stretch personally, it's good to have that type of person around. Before he signed in Atlanta, there was all this bad stuff said about him. ... I found that he has a good heart and he works hard every day to turn that perception around."
If Howard joined the Celtics, he would already have a close friend on the team in Jaylen Brown.
Both are from Georgia and have shared the same trainer in the past.
When asked about Howard earlier this season, Brown said that Howard has been a mentor of sorts for him, advising him on the things to do and not do early on in your pro career.
Howard will be the first to acknowledge he has made some bad decisions in his career, which is why he has made a point when given the opportunity to pass on the lessons he learned so that others like Brown won’t repeat those same mistakes.
“When you’re talking to a guy trying to be in the NBA and stuff like that, you just always want to be real,” Howard told NBC Sports Boston. “For us growing up, we didn’t see the stuff that players went through. I didn’t know what to expect. I only saw the TV, what was on TV, the cars, the houses, that stuff. Once I got in, it’s a different side. That’s the side I wanted to talk to him (Brown) about, just try to … I don’t want him to make any of the mistakes I made as far as away from the game. On the court, he’s going to handle himself. But away from the game, just so he doesn’t make those little mistakes that could cost you in the end.”
Now Howard has accomplished just about every individual honor a player can throughout the course of what has been on paper at least, a Hall of Fame-worthy career.
But as his career nears an end, Howard has that thirst to win at the highest levels, something that has often been questioned about him in the past.
Can he get that thirst quenched in Boston?