Dwight Howard, the former eight-time all-star, is likely to sign with hometown franchise Atlanta Hawks during free agency, according to sources close to the organization.
Hawks are expected to offer Howard a maximum contract, seeing as center Al Horford will also enter free agency and most likely head elsewhere. In this scenario, there is a possibility that the Rockets and Hawks explore a sign-and-trade option, that is if Horford agrees to go to Houston.
The Hawks have $52 million in committed salaries for the 2016-17 season, giving them enough salary cap flexibility to max out Howard besides adding another mid-tier talent to bolster the roster.
Dwight Howard to “hit the reset button”
On Thursday, ESPN published a tell-all interview with Howard, in which the superstar center revealed his intention to “hit the reset button” and re-emerge as a force in the league. In recent years, Howard has copped plenty of criticism for his alleged lack of motivation and focus.
Howard told senior writer Jackie McMullan that the Rockets’ dysfunction locker room didn’t help his cause during the just-concluded season which saw them finish with a 41-41 record. “There were times I was disinterested because of situations that happened behind the scenes that really hurt me. It left me thinking, ‘This is not what I signed up for.’”
Indeed. Howard and James Harden were expected to make the Rockets legitimate championship contenders. And yet, for a better part of the season, Howard had become an afterthought in the Houston offense which openly employed the “Harden or Bust” philosophy.
Despite Howard’s lack of production, the Atlanta native admitted that he could have been more aggressive. “My friends kept telling me, ‘Even if you aren’t getting shots, there are so many other things you can control while you are on the floor.’ And they were right. I allowed not getting the ball to affect me. That’s on me.”
Horford wants to stay in Atlanta…
Meanwhile, Horford has expressed his desire to re-sign with the Hawks. “I’ve set up here with my family. We all live here. We live here in the summer. We live here year-round. I’m very grateful for all the people here. They have taken me in from the very first day, even though I was a Gator. They loved me. I really love the city.”
However, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer is reportedly looking to shake up the roster after his team was humiliated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals earlier this month. Essentially, both Horford and Howard could be looking for a fresh start next season.
Dwight Howard is set to opt out of his $23.2 million player option for 2016-17 and enter free agency. Will Atlanta prove to be the right destination?