Dwight Howard aims for career-finishing run with Wizards
WASHINGTON (AP) — Dwight Howard brought the charm to his introductory news conference with the Wizards on Monday. The eight-time All-Star has lots of experience in such situations. The center now playing for his fourth team in four seasons said Washington would be his last stop.
The three-time defensive player of the year is joining a Wizards team that includes All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, but he is coming off a frustrating season that ended with a first-round playoff loss to the Raptors.
Frustration is nothing new to the 6-foot-11 Howard. He’s gone from taking the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals to joining six teams since leaving Orlando in 2012.
Washington and Howard agreed this month to a two-year, $11 million contract with a player option for the 2019-20 season.
Howard became available after the Nets bought out his contract following a trade with the Hornets this offseason for a return of Timofey Mozgov’s contract and a pair of second-round picks. Howard averaged 16.6 points and 12.3 rebounds last season for Charlotte, averaging a double-double during each of his 14 NBA seasons.
The move came one year after the Hawks foisted Howard’s contract on the Hornets in a similarly structured trade, which followed three uninspiring seasons with the Rockets and a tumultuous campaign with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
“Actually, I was joking with one of my trainers earlier today,” Howard said Monday at Capital One Arena. “I thought it would be fitting. We were talking about how I started with the Magic, learned Magic for eight years. Traveled to La-La land. Learned how to work the Rockets. Went to learn how to fly with some Hawks. Got stung by the Hornets. Throughout all of that, it taught me how to be a Wizard.”
So many moves naturally lead to a negative perception of Howard’s impact on team chemistry.
"(Based on) the conversations I’ve had with him, the conversations that I’ve had with some coaches, we’re not going to have problems,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said. “I know a lot of times things are out there. Some are true, some are not. You have to focus on what (Dwight) and I have talked about going forward. He’s excited, our team is excited, our coaching staff is excited.”
The Wizards, who ranked in the middle of the league last season in opponent scoring and field goal percentage defense, decided to pursue a player they believe can help them shore up several areas.
“Someone who could be a force on the defensive end and the offensive end. Someone who is proven in this league already and someone who can be a real physical presence, which we felt like we were lacking,” team president Ernie Grunfeld said.
The 32-year-old Howard said he could imagine playing for eight more seasons, saying “I plan to be here until I retire.”
He later added a plan for winning:
“Whatever happens throughout the year, the only way we’re going to get through it is together. It takes a lot for that to happen. You really have to put your ego to the side and focus on one thing and that’s winning. . I was once told to put the ego in the back pocket and focus on the front, focus on the chest, which is the team. I think that’s what we have to do. We do that, we’ll be very successful.”