Dwight Howard‘s tumultuous road to free agency in 2011 was one of the substantial moments that in a way changed his career forever. Much had been made about his discontent with then-coach Stan Van Gundy and the organization, with the question “where will he go?” becoming an everyday topic in news outlets around the country.
“It had nothing to do with the team. They said they were going to try to move me. I thought it was going to happen,” Howard told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “They came in and said, ‘We’re going to trade you.’ They shook my hand and said, ‘God bless you. You were here for eight years and you did a great job.’
“They asked me to go shake my teammates’ hands. I went and shook their hands and told them that the team was going to trade me. I woke up the next day and they said, ‘We’re not going to trade you.’”
Howard was coming off one of his most successful seasons of his career, averaging 22.9 points, 14.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 1.4 steals per game in 2010-11 — making this quite a puzzling endeavor.
“This was right after the [2011 NBA] lockout. I was supposed to get traded right before training camp,” said Howard. “I had asked them to trade me to Brooklyn and I thought that was going to happen. They decided they weren’t going to trade me and that was when all hell broke loose. People said I was doing this in the locker room, doing that. But I’ve never been that kind of guy.
“I told my agent, ‘Listen, they want me here, so I will just stay here until the end of the season and I’ll make a decision after that. Let’s not fight it. Let’s not go back and forth. Let’s not talk about it.’”
A potential move to the now-defunct New Jersey Nets would have placed the Atlanta native in company of Deron Williams, who was one of the elite point guards in the league back in the day.
While some teams salivated at the thought of adding the hulking big man to their roster, others preferred to stay away from the situation due to the rumors of him being a plague in the locker room.
“There was just a lot of things going on behind closed doors. I just felt bad because I felt like they were trying to pin me against [Orlando],” said Howard. “Don’t put me against these people if I’m out in the community every day fighting for them, trying to build. But that’s what ended up happening. I loved every part of Orlando. I was always out and my goal was to try to reach every kid there.”
“I got to change that city. Change the way they viewed basketball. Change the way they viewed basketball players. That was my goal. I felt like when I was there I did that. Jameer [Nelson], Hedo [Turkoglu] and all these guys, we were all a part of that. So when all that stuff went down, it kind of hurt me.”
Dwight Howard was ultimately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, for which he played only one season, marking the start of his decline from NBA stardom.