Dwight as damaged goods? Yep
Prior to this offseason (or maybe post-Trade-Deadline last season), Dwight Howard was unquestionably considered the best center in the league by a wide majority of people. His unique and stunning mix of ridiculous athleticism, strength, talent, and rebounding ability was unparalleled in the entire NBA and the tenacity he always played with was feared by every team when at the Amway Arena or when the Magic strolled into town. His biggest weakness was probably his atrocious free-throw shooting, which still hasn't improved.
However, after his infamous flip-flopping (and ETO-waiving) of last year (which prevented him from being traded to the Nets, the team he admitted to wanting to join), Howard's maturity and commitment to team basketball (as opposed to individual basketball) has been, justly, taken into question. How could someone with his talent and ability manage to possibly cause doubt and buyers' anxiety in the teams that could certainly use someone of his ilk?
Well, that could be explained with his incomprehensible decision to waive the Early Termination Option (ETO) in his contract with the Magic on last season's Trade Deadline. By doing that, he essentially guaranteed that he would finish out the season in Orlando and alienated all possibility of joining the Nets, especially since Magic management made it clear that they wouldn't trade the center to New Jersey/Brooklyn. Since the ETO, if not waived, would have allowed Howard to enter free agency a year earlier, he spent much of the offseason, until, of course, he was dealt to the Lakers in a four-team deal that netting next to nothing for the Magic.
Hey, what could Dwight be mad about now that he was in sunny LA with Kobe and Steve Nash and Pau Gasol? Nothing actually, until the Lakers started the season out cold, losing four of their first five games, leading to the firing of Mike Brown and subsequent hiring of Mike D'Antoni. As the newbie in town, Dwight was linked to LA's brutal start and we certainly know from his time in Orlando, he doesn't take criticism well at all.
Growing adverse to the normal accusations and diatribes that come-with-the-territory in a major market like Los Angeles, Dwight's play on the floor suffered, he made way too many stupid remarks to the media, and started to quietly blame his teammates for the team's problems, many of which were started by the guy looking back at him in the mirror. Then, compounded with every thing else going on, Dwight began to even suggest that his shoulder injury–which has been plaguing him for almost a year now–was the root cause for his struggles. Obviously, that excuse never goes off well somewhere like LA.
Now, sitting at 26-29, the Lakers are on the outside-looking-in for the Western Conference playoff picture, somewhere unfamiliar for such a successful franchise that recently lost its major architect in Dr. Jerry Buss (RIP). And who is a reasonable target for the responsibility of this talented team being so under-whelming? No one other than Dwight Howard himself, who even though has had a decent statistical season so far, has been a pretty significant cancer to this team. This "cancer" label, although politically incorrect, is starting to actually become true for Howard, as in many cases where it's used, it's inaccurate.
When you look at his career scope, you see one Eastern Conference Championship that stands out. What else stands out is that he's basically fired two of his coaches simply by his own doing: Stan Van Gundy in Orlando and Mike Brown in Los Angeles. Now, at the Trade Deadline of this 2012-13 season, with his contract expiring in a few months, Howard is being floated in the same trade rumors that have been following for years now.
The only real thing that separates these rumors from those in the past in that the past ones didn't come to fruition because of differences between the teams negotiating or because of salary cap complications. However, now, the main roadblock for a trade shipping Howard out of SoCal is other teams' reluctance to acquire someone of his salary and character makeup and even injury history. Years ago, multiple teams would have already jumped at the chance to nab the Atlanta native, who has even been linked to the Hawks in past trade rumor scenarios.
At least to me, it's stunning how much his stock as a star as fallen in just a year. Even the Nets, who were so gung-ho about trading for him last year, don't seem very interested in the big man and look to be more content with the consistent Brook Lopez than the volatile Dwight Howard. Just like how someone ordering something off eBay would rather have a guaranteed object than one that may or may not be what they asked for, any team–for the most part–would prefer to decline a trade for Howard and would rather keep the more consistent center they already have.
And when people stop having the desire to buy a certain item, that's when you know there is something wrong with the product. And there is certainly something wrong with Dwight Howard.