Warriors take first step toward acquiring Dwight Howard


The Warriors made their pitch to this year’s alpha free agent Dwight Howard on Monday. It was followed by a workout with Stephen Curry. None of this was a surprise. We learned a couple days ago this would be happening. The Warriors’ infatuation with Howard has even stretched back a few Warrior Girls calendars.

But Monday marked the first time any legitimate progress has been made by Joe Lacob & Co. on their Dwight Howard pipe dream. It’s definitely a bold move for a franchise desperately trying to take that step into the league’s upper strata. However, many consider the Warriors a long shot to land Howard: There’s the part about how they could only acquire him in a sign-and-trade, which could prove tricky; there’s how they won’t be able to give him the most money; then there’s other apparently mitigating factors that could actually end up being crucial, chiefly how Texas has no income tax. Also, this. But don’t think any of that is going to slow Golden State down.

If you’re at all familiar with this little corner of the Internet, you’ll know we’re decidedly not on the Dwight Howard bandwagon. TL;DR: Fantastic player but too volatile, too much of a headache. And yet, evidently my opinion means very little. (And why wouldn’t it? My crowning NBA achievement is only meeting Virtual Obama at the Virtual White House after winning the title in NBA2K.) Despite all the drama, adversity and immaturity Howard brings in tow, the Warriors for some reason are very much all-in on trying make him their center:

“Are you kidding?” one source said. “He’s the best center in the game.”

No one denies that there are real issues that come with the D12 package. But lots of teams are willing to look past all the baggage. There are five finalists in the running — your Warriors, the hometown Hawks, the Mark Cuban-will-do-anything-even-if-it-means-hiding-bodies Mavericks, the about-to-be-screwed Lakers and the perceived frontrunner Rockets. But rather than parading around in evening gowns and blathering about how to “create education better,” these finalists actually get to be in a room with Howard and make their cases.

Per Marcus Thompson, here are the points the Warriors contingent has in its favor and would be wise to drive home in its sit down with Howard:

  • Howard will have no concerns getting the ball. The Warriors offer a style similar to his Magic squad that went to the finals – shooters on the outside giving him room to work on the inside. Golden State is stocked with unselfish players who will happily feed Howard, especially since his success will make life easier for them
  • Curry represents a bonafide yet amenable star to play alongside Howard, something he didn’t have in Orlando or Los Angeles. With the Magic, he didn’t have a dominant player to run with. With the Lakers, the star player (Kobe Bryant) rode him hard, which didn’t seem to sit well with Howard. If D12 is at all in search of peace and a drama-free environment, the Warriors might look appealing. (Houston perhaps offers the same in James Harden). Of course, many think Howard likes the drama.
  • The Warriors made it to the Western Conference semifinals with numerous obstacles. They gave the Spurs the most problems in the West and have the pieces to play multiple styles. Right now, Golden State is looking like one of the better teams in the West. Add Howard and they instantly become an elite team, challenging OKC and San Antonio. Can Houston, the presumed front runner in the D12 sweepstakes, make the same claim? Are Atlanta and Dallas just a piece away? Do the Lakers have enough left in the tank?
  • I still say don’t sleep on the religious angle. A locker room full of Christians and a preacher coach might sound good to Howard, who came into the league saying he would evangelize so hard they would put a cross on the NBA logo. Howard is hardly the zealot he was when he entered the league, but I would not be surprised at all if Mark Jackson made that part of the pitch.

Ay yi yi yi yi. I don’t know what I shook my head more while reading, that or the evidence in the Aaron Hernandez case.

Nobody is questioning Dwight Howard’s abilities as a basketball player. Dude averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds on a bad back last season. But being a good player doesn’t always mean being a good teammate. We saw it in LA and Orlando over the last few years. He quit on both teams. People questioned his effort. He reportedly threw both coaches under the bus. He constantly flip flopped in his remarks to the media. What a nightmare. If things aren’t 100 percent going Dwight Howard’s way, Dwight Howard isn’t happy. He’s a diva. A bomb that could explode at any minute.

Plugging in good players doesn’t always guarantee success. Look at the Lakers last year. All the pieces have to be able to work together productively. They have to be comfortable together. The system has to be right.

The Warriors right now are Curry’s team. Part of the reason why Curry finally broke out last year was (aside from staying healthy) that he was free from the shackles that limited him when Monta was the de facto leader of the Warriors. Monta Ellis is on Dwyane Wade’s level, so Monta Ellis is gonna shoot the ball 25 times a game no matter what. Monta Ellis don’t care about Stephen Curry. Monta Ellis gonna get his.

I don’t see it being much different than that if Howard joins the Warriors, other than it would be switched to the low post. Howard is going to come in assuming he’ll be the team’s alpha dog and will expect the offense to go through him. And that’s the problem. Howard is not as good in some aspects of the game as he thinks he is. That’s not saying he’s not worthy of a max contract offer; he’s superb on the defensive end and on the boards and few are more physically gifted. But his offensive game, aside from flushing home putbacks and alley oops, is limited. His post-up game is not as sound as it should be, and, obviously, he’s a liability when free throws become an important part of the game.

What’s going to happen to the Warriors offense if Howard becomes a part of it? Is Stephen Curry, the team’s fearless leader and the guy whom anybody with functioning eyes and a brain knows should have the basketball in his hands as much as possible, going to start yielding to Howard? I can’t think of a bigger strategic mistake that the Warriors could make, other than making Draymond Green the permanent inbounds passer. Part of the mystique of the Warriors offense last season was the ability to throw the haymaker to change the course of the game. How many times did Curry (or Klay Thompson or Jarrett Jack or, hell, even Draymond, but mostly Curry) hit a game-changing three in transition or in the half-court that affected momentum and sent the Oracle Arena roof into the sky? What happens to that if the Warriors implement a system in which the offense goes through Howard? That’s what makes Andrew Bogut so ideal as a center for the Warriors. He’ll give you the invaluable domineering post presence on defense, but he’ll differ to Curry, Lee, et al. on offense. Sure, Bogut’s health makes him a perpetual question mark. But he knows his role, and it’s proven to work… when healthy.

OK, admittedly, I’m jumping the gun a bit with some of this. Before speculating his role in the offense, let’s see first if he signs with the Warriors. And as mentioned, right now that’s a long shot. The smart money is on a Texas team. But let’s not forget Howard is apparently allergic to making rational decisions, which only makes the Warriors alive in this as ever.

[photo via Ryan Hurst]

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