Dwight Howard is gone (but not really) and I feel bad

I’m going to ask you to do something that not a lot of people like to do. Maybe, just for a little bit, but maybe let’s feel bad for Dwight Howard.

I’m not trying to legislate your feelings. That’s immoral and impossible. All I’m saying is that there’s a cloud that follows Howard. In that cloud are all sorts of negativity stemming from his time in Orlando, to the disappointment in L.A., to the breakup in Houston, all the way until now. These things are fair. You feel you. I’d just like to propose that maybe we can slip a sliver of sympathy there.

It doesn’t start last night, but let’s start there.

It’s a typical night for Dwight Howard. He is being Dwight Howard in front of his Dwight Howard Computer asking Dwight Howard Questions to the world. He’s always wanted to be liked, except publicly wanting to be liked is considered unlikable to, like, everyone.

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This is a better approach. Howard is engaging with the people. Ostensibly, he wants to get other peoples’ thoughts as opposed to trying to rearrange them to his liking. This is good. Good job.

And then:

Oh dear.

This is the official announcement. The report came hours earlier. To be clear:

As far as life coming at your fast goes, this is a Pagani. A Pagani driven by the Stig wrapped around a hope-shaped tree.

This five minute span either hurts you or gives you a turgid sense of schadenfreude. If it’s the latter, have fun with that. If the NBA to you is more a vessel of entertainment than a collection of talented people whose application of their talents is largely outside of their control, then this is as cloying and soggy as it gets. Have fun with that.

At the other end of our want to see bad things happen to people we consider bad is a desire for redemption. People changing for the better reminds us that we too can improve. What we are now isn’t what we’ll always be. Who we were isn’t what we are now. If Howard can change from Orlando-ditching, Laker-washout-ing, Houston escaping, farting candyman, then maybe there’s something to learn. Maybe there’s something to be inspired by.

Howard coming home to Atlanta wasn’t that redemption, it was the potential for it. This was a quiet season for Howard. That’s progress for Howard. Keep the head down, don’t foster attention. The attention has largely gone against him.

At season’s end, there weren’t questions of his role on the team or of whether he was distraction. Reports seemed largely positive. He was going to start working on 3s. Maybe that skill was never going to pan out, but it was at least indication that he didn’t see himself or his primary role in the league as primary post player. He was evolving. The only question was whether his contract was too much.

His contract was too much. He was flipped to save $3 million next year and move the Hawks down in the draft 10 spots.

In many ways, this could be the harshest thing Howard has had to deal with. He was home; now he’s gone. His team seemed to like him, and he seemed to care about developing to make that team better; it’s not his team any more. On June 20, 2017, the only attention he wanted was other people to give him their thoughts; he became the story. Again, but this time it’s different.

After what may have been the most promising season for Dwight Howard the person, Dwight Howard the player became the problem. He was moved to Charlotte, and the person has to come with him. I feel bad.